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WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States is stepping up security at “soft targets” like hotels and shopping malls, as well as trains and ports, as it counters the evolving Al-Qaeda threat, a top official said Sunday.
A year after a foiled plot to bomb a US-bound passenger plane, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told CNN’s “State of the Union” program that other places and modes of transportation must now be scrutinized.
“We look at so-called soft targets — the hotels, shopping malls, for example — all of which we have reached out to in the past year and have done a fair amount of training for their own employees,” Napolitano said.
Since an attempted bombing on a packed Saturday night in Times Square in May, New York, for example, has installed hundreds of security cameras as part of a plan to triple the number of cameras to 3,000.
In September, the city activated some 500 new surveillance cameras at its three busiest subway stations — Times Square, Penn Station and Grand Central.
“The overall message is everything is objectively better than it was a year ago, particularly in the aviation environment. But we’re also looking at addressing other areas,” Napolitano said.
As extremists struggle to circumvent tighter security at airports and search for new avenues, she said US officials were looking to step up broader measures.
“What we have to do is say, well, what other ways are they thinking to commit an act, because our job is not only to react, but to be thinking always ahead, what could be happening,” Napolitano said.
“And so we have enhanced measures going on at surface transportation, not because we have a specific or credible threat there, but because we know, looking at Madrid and London, that’s been another source of targets for terrorists.”
Suicide bombers killed 52 people aboard a bus and three London Underground trains in 2005.
And in Europe’s worst terror attack, 191 people were killed and nearly 2000 injured in Madrid in March 2004 when 10 backpacks filled with nails and explosives went off on four trains during morning rush hour.
“It means, as we make the land borders harder to cross from a land border crossing standpoint, that we need to be looking out into our coasts and to the waters,” said Napolitano.
Last Christmas, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a young Nigerian who claims to have been trained by Al-Qaeda operatives in the Yemen, failed to detonate explosives concealed in his underwear on a packed transatlantic airliner as it came in to land in Detroit.
The US authorities responded by installing new screening machines and initiating draconian body searches at airports.
Napolitano said international travelers in the United States also face tight intelligence screening even before they reach the boarding gate.
You can’t make this stuff up. First, we get “Thousands Standing Around” and the security theater of the commercial airport. Yet, all terrorists attempts using commercial airliners were either stopped by the passengers involved or by sharp police work long before they got to the airport. And, of course, in our hopes of protection without offense, we don’t pat down muslim women, assuming they are muslim women, because we don’t make them remove the veil either.
Then we get LASP, security in hopes of a threat. Yet, not once has General Aviation proven itself a threat. The DHS says General Aviation isn’t a threat, the terrorists say GA isn’t a threat because the yield is too small. Operation Playbook could only find a National Champion skeet shooter with his legally registered and carried shotgun that the local sheriff refused to arrest. So much for that.
The Times Square attempt was found by an alert street cleaner…
Yet, now the TSA is moving to shopping malls and train stations. Exactly what is it these people do? I mean besides use fascist scare tactics against the citizenry to keep us in line. People, you need to read an old novel called “1984” by George Orwell; Big Brother is here and he’s moving to the mall.
You need to contact your congressmen, you need to contact the appropriate committees; Transportation, Security, etc. and tell them enough is enough. We will not see the Constitution used as a door mat. The 4th Amendment still is the Law of the Land in this country.
And let’s not forget the airline pilot that posted on Youtube. He pointed out something that Congress has known about for almost ten years. I know, I told Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) in 2002 along with the Coalition of Airline Pilots’ Associations (CAPA). Yet at your major commercial airport thousands of workers with a minimal background check come to work each day; passing through no more security than the swipe of a badge. Of course ALPA finally came out and said the pilot should be a trusted agent, no kidding?
Where does it stop? It stops with you. Make the call, send the fax. Don’t be bullied by your government in the guise of security — ’cause this ain’t it.
Posted: December 27th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized
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Even a left wing paper like the Washington Post is starting to get it. Technology will not save us, grunts (properly trained and professional grunts) will save us. And the worst part is this new scanner technology is being sold and/or pushed by the former Secretary of DHS — no conflict of interest there.
The way to fix this problem is given by a new Representative from Florida, LTC Allen West, USA (retired). Here, here!
Auditors question TSA’s use of and spending on technology
By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 21, 2010; 12:55 AM
Before there were full-body scanners, there were puffers.
The Transportation Security Administration spent about $30 million on devices that puffed air on travelers to “sniff” them out for explosives residue. Those machines ended up in warehouses, removed from airports, abandoned as impractical.
The massive push to fix airport security in the United States after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, led to a gold rush in technology contracts for an industry that mushroomed almost overnight. Since it was founded in 2001, the TSA has spent roughly $14 billion in more than 20,900 transactions with dozens of contractors.
In addition to beefing up the fleets of X-ray machines and traditional security systems at airports nationwide, about $8 billion also paid for ambitious new technologies. The agency has spent about $800 million on devices to screen bags and passenger items, including shoes, bottled liquids, casts and prostheses. For next year, it wants more than $1.3 billion for airport screening technologies.
But lawmakers, auditors and national security experts question whether the government is too quick to embrace technology as a solution for basic security problems and whether the TSA has been too eager to write checks for unproven products.
“We always want the best, the latest and greatest technology against terrorists, but that’s not necessarily the smartest way to spend your money and your efforts,” said Kip Hawley, who served as the head of the TSA from 2005 until last year. “We see a technology that looks promising, and the temptation is to run to deploy it before we fully understand how it integrates with the multiple layers we already have in place like using a watch list, training officers at every checkpoint to look for suspicious behavior and using some pat-downs.”
Some say the fact that the United States hasn’t had another 9/11-level terrorist attack shows that the investment was money well spent.
But government auditors have faulted the TSA and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, for failing to properly test and evaluate technology before spending money on it.
The puffer machines, for example, were an early TSA attempt at improving electronic screening in airport security lines. Designed to dislodge explosive particles by shooting air blasts at passengers, the detectors turned out to be unreliable and expensive to operate. But they were deployed in many airports before the TSA had fully tested them, according to the Government Accountability Office.
The puffers were “deployed even though TSA officials were aware that tests conducted during 2004 and 2005 on earlier [puffer] models suggested they did not demonstrate reliable performance in an airport environment,” according to a GAO report from October 2009.
TSA officials told the GAO that they had deployed the puffers to “respond quickly to the threat posed by a suicide bomber” after incidents on Russian airliners in 2004.
The agency stopped buying and deploying the puffer machines to airports in June 2006. The GAO said in its October 2009 report that 116 puffers were in storage. A TSA spokesman said the agency had “since disposed of” the machines or transferred them to other agencies.
The government auditors expressed similar concerns that the TSA hasn’t done good assessments of the risk, cost benefits or performances of other new technologies for screening at checkpoints.
The GAO has said that the TSA has “not conducted a risk assessment or cost-benefit analysis, or established quantifiable performance measures” on its new technologies. “As a result, TSA does not have assurance that its efforts are focused on the highest priority security needs.”
In other cases, equipment to trace explosives and other devices for screening passengers have had technical problems and projected cost overruns, according to a recent GAO report.
The full-body scanners that have made headlines in recent weeks for their revealing images of passengers were tested more thoroughly than the puffer machines before being deployed, the GAO has found. But the auditors faulted the agency for not fully justifying their cost, saying that the agency’s plan to double the number of body scanners in coming years will require more personnel to run and maintain them – an expense of as much as $2.4 billion.
“They’re adding layers of security and technology, but they need to do a cost-benefit analysis to make sure this is worthwhile,” said Steve Lord of the GAO’s Homeland Security and Justice team, who has reviewed the TSA’s purchases. “They need to look at whether there is other technology to deploy at checkpoints. Are we getting the best technology for the given pot of money? Is there a cheaper way to provide the same level of security through other technology?”
John Huey, an airport security expert, said the TSA’s contracts with vendors to buy more equipment and devices often aren’t done in a “systematic way.”
“TSA has an obsession of finding a single box that will solve all its problems,” Huey said. “They’ve spent and wasted money looking for that one box, and there is no such solution. . . . They respond to congressional mandates and the latest headlines of attempted terrorist attacks without any thought to risk management or separating out the threats in a logical way.”
TSA officials disagree. They say there are responsible processes in place to research, develop and fund new technologies for airport security. And they point out that some gee-whiz equipment that vendors have pitched has taken too long to develop or has been too expensive to produce.
“We have to be predictive and acquire the best technology today to address the known threats by being informed of the latest intelligence and be proactive in working on what could be the next threats,” said TSA Administrator John Pistole. “It is a tall order.”
He said that technology isn’t the only security effort underway. The TSA uses a combination of tactics, including terrorist watch lists, intelligence gathering and training security officers, to look for suspicious behavior.
Trial and error
The billions of dollars the TSA has spent on technology has been “a good investment,” Pistole said, but he said that developing devices is full of risk. “It is a lot of art with the science. We’re always competing for the best technology at the best price. It is just a constantly changing dynamic environment.”
After 9/11, there was talk of cargo containers that could withstand explosions, for example, but airport security experts said they never came to fruition, in part because they were too heavy and airlines didn’t want to pay for the extra fuel to carry them.
Another much talked-about device, a shoe scanner that would allow passengers to keep their shoes on while going through a checkpoint, has not been fully deployed to airports. Twelve companies are vying to provide shoe scanners to U.S. airports, but the TSA has not chosen one.
Contractors said they were responding to the requests the agency puts out for new ways to prevent terrorists in a world that has an ever-changing threat. Executives at airport security companies say they find that the TSA often buys its screening equipment and technologies to face the most recent threat rather than anticipating what might come next.
“We don’t always see a well-defined roadmap of what they want,” said Tom Ripp, president of the Security and Detection Systems division of L-3 Communications, a major security contractor.
Part of the problem is that experts disagree about what constitutes an effective airport security system, and policy makers are reluctant to embrace some techniques – such as profiling – that American society finds objectionable.
“Since the introduction of metal detectors in the 1970s, technologies have been bought and cobbled together in a somewhat piecemeal approach,” said Tom LaTourrette, a security expert at RAND Corp., a nonprofit research institute.
“No one has been able to provide a satisfactory answer to the question of how to best structure aviation security,” he said.
The rush to improve security and quickly protect the public has also led to some shortcuts in contracting procedures, according to government reports.
A March audit from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general looked at 29 support service contracts that the TSA had issued to buy new technologies for baggage and passenger screening equipment, worth a total of $662 million. It found that the agency “did not provide adequate management and oversight” on the contracts.
It concluded that the TSA “did not have reasonable assurance that contractors were performing as required, that it contracted for the services it needed, that it received the services it paid for, or that taxpayers were receiving the best value.” The TSA said it has made improvements in its contracting process and oversight efforts.
Although big companies have been quick to respond to the new government market for air security, smaller firms – which often are incubators for cutting-edge technologies – say they have faced frustrations. Clint Seward of Acton, Mass., started trying in the late 1980s to sell the government a device about the size of a laptop called a BCT (bottle content tester) that would detect hazardous liquids in bottles and allow people to carry water bottles or sodas on planes.
“We were trying to convince them this made sense, but you couldn’t get a consensus to get them to roll it out,” Seward said. Then 9/11 happened.
“The day after they said, ‘Can you give us a quote for 1,500 of these?’ ” Seward said. “I’m thinking, ‘Sure.’ ” He did the quote, but he said that the TSA didn’t have the money to fund it at first, and then he faced competition on the idea.
“By the time TSA got the money for it, the big guys took over,” Seward said. “They realized it was big money to be made with TSA. They pushed their way in.”
Last year, the TSA bought 500 bottled-liquid scanners in a $22 million contract with Smiths Detection. It has deployed more than 600 of the scanners to airports nationwide and expects to deploy more next year.
firstname.lastname@example.org Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Posted: December 21st, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized
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By my partner here at stopLASP, Alan Armstrong, Esq. as published on his byline at Flight Watch.
I. Enough Is Enough
Almost daily, we read accounts of American citizens who are fed up with groping and naked images displayed on x-ray machines employed by the TSA, as part of its security measures. Of interest is the fact that these enhanced measures undertaken by the TSA would not have prevented the Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding an aircraft. Explosive compounds and devices can be secreted in the cavities of the human body. Nevertheless, as part of “security theatre,” the American public continues to endure the ineptitude of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) created in the wake of disaster of September 11, 2001. Who among us has forgotten that the TSA, not once, but twice disclosed the contents of its security manual on the internet? We now have a number of Americans who are declaring, “enough is enough.”
John Tyner of Oceanside, California was attempting to pass through security at Lindbergh Field in the early morning hours of November 13, 2010, when the metal scanner was unmanned, he was given two choices. He could go through the x-ray device, which is a full body scan that presents an image of the person as though he or she were nude, or undergo a physical pat down. Tyner was advised that the pat down would consist of a person raising his hand up Tyler’s inner thigh until it reached the bottom of Tyner’s torso. Tyner is reported to have uttered words to the effect “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” After Tyner refused to go through the machines or the physical pat down, the TSA opened an investigation into the incident and hinted Tyner might be liable to pay a civil penalty of as much as $11,000.00.
Two airline pilots, Michael S. Roberts of Memphis, Tennessee and Ann Poe of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida have filed suit in federal court in Washington, D.C. against the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration. These two airmen have been grounded following separate incidents in which they refused to submit to full body scans or, in the alternative, to pat downs by the TSA officers. According to a story published in The Commercial Appeal, the grounds of their law suit is that the full body scans and pat downs employed by the TSA violate the protections of American citizens under the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures. Roberts and Poe are requesting that a judge bar the use of image scanning technology or enhanced pat downs. These airmen are represented by the Rutherford Institute and are blogging at fedupflyers.org. Roberts has not flown since mid-October and is currently on unpaid administrative leave from his employment as a regional airline pilot. It appears the legal action filed by Roberts and Poe has been successful. On Friday, November 19, the TSA quietly announced airline pilots will be allowed to bypass the invasive screening. Counsel for Roberts and Poe, John Whitehead, Esq. declared:
Although the TSA’s concession may make it easier for pilots to travel, American passengers will still be subjected to these full-body scans and invasive pat downs in violation of the Fourth Amendment.” No American, pilot or passenger, should be forced to undergo a virtual strip search or subjected to such excessive groping of the body as a matter of course in reporting to work or boarding an airplane when there is no suspicion of wrongdoing. To do so violates human dignity and the U.S. Constitution, and goes against every good and decent principle this county was founded upon.
II. Congressman Ron Paul and H.R. 6416 – The American Traveler Dignity Act
Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.) recently took the floor of the House of Representatives to speak in favor of H.R. 6416 – The American Traveler Dignity Act. Paul took the floor to draw concern to what he described as the calamity we have found at our airports. He noted that pilots are fed up and the people are fed up. Ron Paul has declared that “enough is enough.” Paul notes correctly, that we are allowing TSA personnel to feel inside our underwear. Paul did observe that this presents a potential health hazard.
Ponder for a moment and contemplate that when you go to the doctor’s office, health care personnel are required to changed gloves between examinations. If a TSA agent has made physical contact with his or her gloves on the skin of a person with shingles, and if the agent does not change gloves and comes in physical contact with the next prospective passenger who has not had chicken pox, then the contract between the TSA agent and the second person examined with the same gloves is a vector for spreading disease. It is no accident that Paul declared during his remarks that these actions of the TSA “may be dangerous to our health.”
Paul noted, correctly, that the activities of the TSA do not work declaring: “This is preposterous to think that TSA has made us safer.” As noted by Paul, Michael Chertoff, the former head of the Department of the Homeland Security is now selling equipment to the TSA. It must certainly give comfort to members of the traveling public to contemplate that a former cabinet level official is realizing profits from technology that would not have prevented the Christmas Day bomber from boarding an aircraft with a concealed explosive device. As noted in a Government Accountability study issued March 17, 2010, “It remains unclear whether the (advanced imaging technology) would have detected the weapon used in the December 2009 incident based on the preliminary information GAO has received.” For his part, the current TSA Administrator, John Pistole has declared that if Americans will not acquiesce in undergoing full body scans or being subjected to full body searches, then they have no business boarding a commercial airliner. As noted by Congressman Ron Paul, it is ridiculous to have the pilot subjected to this level of security theater, considering that the pilot is in control of the aircraft.
One is left to wonder if TSA agents have an appreciation for the public health risks posed by groping in passengers’ underwear. Consider the experience of Cathy Bossi, a Charlotte flight attendant. When feeling her right breast, the TSA agent said, “What is this?” When Bossi explained she was a cancer survivor and it was prosthesis, the TSA agent responded, “Well, you’ll need to show me that.” Bossi related that she removed the prosthetic breast from her bra after being taken to a private room.
The experience of Ms. Bossi is not unique as we learn from the CBS interview of a new mother who said she felt raped after the tops and bottoms of her breasts were touched and her vaginal area groped by a TSA agent. The woman said she was pondering counseling for the trauma she experienced at the hands of the TSA agent. Apparently, the TSA’s new procedures portend the potential for not only spreading disease but psychological trauma as well.
Women who feel violated at the hands of the TSA clearly must experience a feeling of helplessness. After all, once they appear at the screening area, if they try to leave, they can be fined $11,000.00. It is simply unbelievable that America has allowed this to come to pass.
III. What can we expect next?
Republican Congressman John Mica who is the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (a committee he is expected to chair after January, 2011), is advocating that airports ditch the TSA agents and replace them with private security contractors. Mica has recently written one hundred of the nation’s busiest airports suggesting they employ private security firms rather than the TSA.
Mica’s efforts appear to be bearing fruit. Orlando Sanford International Airport near Orlando, and Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon may switch to private security screeners. Hopefully, Mica’s approach portends the eventual demise of the TSA if more airports replace this inept and non-responsive bureaucracy with private security firms.
The Transportation Security Administration is demonstrably incompetent. In war, if one cannot identify the enemy, one has no prospect of winning. Like it or not, radical Islam has declared a holy war on the United States. However, the TSA is so “politically correct” it cannot bring itself to consider obvious measures such as focusing its attention on the kinds of people who are trying to kills us. To treat a young Islamic male from Yemen the same way it scrutinizes a seventy-four year old woman from Dallas, Texas is folly.
In time, the TSA’s incompetent conduct in addressing the threats of terrorists will be its undoing. It is focused exclusively on reactive approaches. After Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded an aircraft with explosives in his underwear, the TSA has employed x-ray scanners and pat downs. The only thing that prevented disaster was the intervention of passengers aboard the plane, not the TSA. The American intelligence community dropped the ball when the man’s father reported to the CIA officials that he feared his son had become radicalized and was a threat. So, now everyone must endure invasive procedures that would not have prevented Abdulmutallab from boarding an aircraft.
The TSA’s reactive approach was the same after toner cartridges shipped from Yemen were found to contain explosives; ban the shipment of toner cartridges by air.
Until Congress holds the TSA accountable for its incompetence, Americans will continue to be abused, and placed at risk by radical Muslim terrorists bent on our destruction. The TSA’s version of “Security Theater” will continue until Congress brings the curtain down on this farce.
Posted: December 9th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized