So, let’s pretend you’re with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The TSA, created shortly after 9/11, provides security for the nation’s transportation systems. Employing approximately 50,000 people, the TSA “ensures your travels – by plane, train, automobile or ferry – are safe and secure.”
After the recent “incident” (this is what the TSA calls it) where an airline passenger successfully brought an explosive device onto an American bound plane, the TSA initiated new travel directives. Apparently, one of these directives includes the seizing of computers owned by bloggers who discuss the new directives.
Steven Frischling, a well respected photo-journalist, received a visit from several TSA agents who seized his laptop and “promised to return it.” Mr. Frischling recently published directive SD-1544-09-06, which basically described pat-downs and physical inspections on 100% of all passengers (read the full text below). As to why Mr. Frischling posted this memo, he stated:
I received it, I read it, I posted it. Why did I post it? Because following the failed terrorist attack on the 25th of December there was a lot of confusion and speculation surrounding changes in airline & airport security procedures.
We are a free society, knowledge is power and informing the masses allows for public conversation and collective understanding. You can agree or disagree, but you need information to know if you want to agree or disagree. My goal is to inform and help people better understand what is happening, as well as allow them to form their own opinions.
Chris Elliot, a seasoned journalist, also received a visit from the TSA, who presented Mr. Elliot with a subpoena requesting all documents, emails, and faxes concerning TSA Security Directive 1544-09-06. The subpoena, complete with spelling errors, required this information no later that December 31, 2009.
Mr. Elliot advised the TSA agent that he would be consulting his attorney before answering any questions or responding to the subpoena.
What the fuck is wrong with the TSA?
Note: I actually tried to come up with a different phrase for that tagline; I truly did. Every time I think about the TSA investigating bloggers for publishing a government directive, the initial thought springing to my mind is still… “what the fuck???” So, the tag line remains.
In my opinion, the TSA simply does not work. I’ve quoted it before, and I’ll quote it again. One of my personal heros, Benjamin Franklin, said it best:
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
After the December 25th “incident,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stated “the system worked.” Let’s think about that. But, let’s also crudely summarize the “incident:”
- A father calls the US Embassy in Nigeria and says he’s worried about his son’s (Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab) extremist views. (An investigation is started)
- Much later, Abdulmutallab boards a plane to America with explosive materials.
- Abdulmutallab unsuccessfully detonates his explosive devise during landing.
- A passenger on the plane (Jasper Schuringa) jumps on Abdulmutallab (now on fire), tries to put out the fire, and physically restrains Abdulmutallab until he can be handcuffed.
- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano states “the system worked.”
Unless the system means placing Jasper Schuringa in the same row as someone who has brought an explosive device onto a plane, then I’m at a loss for how the system worked.
Then again, I would not expect anything different. Saying that the system worked was meant, I assume, to make passengers feel safe, and continue flying. This essentially is exactly the entire purpose of the TSA.
The TSA provides only an illusion of security. The liberties you sacrifice to the TSA provide you nothing more than a “feeling” of safety. They are the David Copperfield of security. You leave thinking something magical happened, but it’s just an illusion.
That being said, wouldn’t it be great if instead of a David Copperfield approach, the TSA modeled themselves after Penn & Teller. Talk about a 180. I’d volunteer my bags to Penn & Teller. Those guys are just amazing.
Transparency in Government
My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government. — Barack Obama
When someone tries to blow up an airplane, one expects there to be actions against that individual. One should not expect to subject themselves to a physical search by the government simply to board an airplane.
Reporting the actions of the government and publishing the directive that 100% of passengers are to be searched cannot be considered a crime. If anything, it’s the most American action taken since 12/25.
As we head into 2010, I wish everyone a safe New Year’s. I hope you enjoy the Holiday as freely as you wish, and maybe, if you would, take the time to send some support to Chris Elliot and Steven Frischling.
- Flying with Fish’s posting of Security Directive 1544-09-06
- Chris Elliot’s Blog of Security Directive 1544-09-06
- Subpoena sent to Chris Elliot
- Flying with Fish
- NYT: TSA Subpoenas Bloggers, Demands Names of Sources
- Huffington Post: TSA Seizes Computer from Travel Blogger