Response from IL Sen. Richard J. Durbin

Discussion in 'Aviation Passenger Security in the USA' started by CelticWhisper, Jun 8, 2011.

  1. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    Some of you who were part of the TS/S crew may have remembered the letter I wrote to Dick Durbin back in March. It got pretty high accolades from TS/S and people encouraged me to send it but also consider submitting it to a paper as an op-ed. Alas I never got around to doing the latter, but I received a response from Sen. Durbin tonight. I have to say I'm disappointed - it's rather wishy-washy and noncommital.

    I do plan on responding and addressing key points so he knows I'm paying attention and will not be satisfied with a form letter, but it's a bit late tonight and I want to take my time and craft it well.
    Suggestions are welcome, and I wanted to make sure to post a record of the reply.
     
  2. FriendlySkies

    FriendlySkies Member



    It's funny that he mentions the part about the NoS detecting weapons. I suppose he has not heard about the TSA tester that got through the MMW in DFW, five separate times, with a gun?



    Then why did TSA require the manufacturers to allow the machines to have the capability to store and transmit images? I don't have the technical specs, but I'll search for them. I think they may be on the EPIC website.



    If a pat down is the only proven substitute for the NoS, then why are there still hundreds of airport security lanes without the NoS? Shouldn't everybody that does not go through a NoS get a pat down?
     
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  3. RadioGirl

    RadioGirl Original Member

    Others have (much) more experience in contacting politicians than I have, but I wonder if it would help to send additional documentation with these letters? Too many of the responses quote from the same TSA talking points: "fuzzy photo negative", "chalk etching", "privacy filter blurs face and sensitive areas" blah blah blah. It seems unlikely that the person answering the letter has actually seen the NoS pictures.

    What about printing out some actual images, and the news article about the failed test in DFW, and the page from the NoS technical requirements document (highlighting the key phrases) and sending them, as paper attachments to the letter. They may well throw them away unread, but there's a chance they may actually learn something.

    (Yeah, I should do that too but my SC senators don't seem too interested in the views of a voter residing overseas. )
     
  4. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    I'm gearing up to write this response (we recently bought a house so spare time has been minimal) and was about to ask those same questions. RG beat me to it!

    So, then:

    -Where might I find a copy of the original RFQ from DHS/TSA stating that the imaging machines must be able to save images?
    -What's a good source for "You call THIS fuzzy?" AIT images to accompany the letter?
    -Where can I find a transcript of the conversation wherein Pissy first said "Children under (12? 10?) will not be patted down"? I want to include this along with the image of the 6-year-old patdown in New Orleans.
    -Also, Durbin (or, rather, the letter which may well have been from an intern) talks about the first AIT units being rolled out in 03/2010. I took a trip to (and, to the point, from) Tampa, FL in October of 2009 and they had a Molestimeter Wave NoS that she opted to go through. Well before the underwear bomber and well before the stated introduction date. Should I make an issue of this or is it a moot point?

    Also, I'm going to give the Senator the benefit of the doubt for now and assume that the traitorous, lying filth in the TSA's rat nest deceived him and he was too busy with other matters to have time to vet their comments. I'm thinking of something along the lines of "I appreciate your vote on S. 223. As it stands alone, it was the right decision and I'm glad that you have the privacy of the people in mind. The amendment should never have needed to be introduced in the first place as TSA has asserted the machines cannot store the images they generate. However, you might not be aware that the AIT machines can, in fact, store and transmit images. Not only that, the ability was insisted upon by TSA in the original request-for-quote for AIT devices. Your vote was the right one, but I'm concerned that the issue of AIT image-saving was one of many things about which TSA has misled the public. Please reference Exhibit A (should I call it that?) for evidence that TSA demanded image-storing capability from the outset." From there I'll figure out some way to segue into more lies they've told, like that about not molesting children and then include the 6-year-old being fondled, rubbed, stroked and groped by the blue-gloved grapist in N.O.

    Aside from this, is there anything else I should include? I'll make another post with my proposed complete letter, open for comment and review before I send it on in.

    Thanks in advance for the help. TUG rocks.
     
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  5. Wimpie

    Wimpie Original Member

  6. RadioGirl

    RadioGirl Original Member

    It's here: http://epic.org/open_gov/foia/TSA_Procurement_Specs.pdf and it requires some careful reading.
    Start with section 3.1.1.1.2:
    "... WBI systems will prohibit the storage and exporting of passenger images during normal screening operations. When not being used for normal screening operations, the capability to capture images of non-passengers for training and evaluation purposes is needed." In other words, the machine must be able to store images, but this should not be used in "normal screening." The document goes on to distinguish between "screening mode" and "test mode". In screening mode it can't export image data. In both modes it can't store data locally.

    (The last line of this section is interesting: "The WBI shall (13) provide a means for passengers to maintain a line of sight to their divested carry-on items during the screening process." I don't think they managed that! The backscatter NoS, in particular, seems designed so you can't see your belongings. But that's a different thread.)

    Section 3.1.1.3.1.2 describes the test mode where image data can be exported in real time. And there are certain User Access Levels which can put the machine into Test Mode. Section 3.1.1.3.6 describes the requirement to provide network access to/from the WBI. Section 3.1.1.5.1 describes a requirement for USB connectivity for data transfer. (Sure it can and probably would be used for other purposes, but it also allows for any data to be transferred out of the system.

    In addition, I would take issue with the claim (in many of these Congressional responses) that the NoS blurs the face and private areas. The TSA has only ever said they blur faces, and since they're looking for things in the "private area" it would be counter-productive to blur it. There are numerous PV posts (go to the archive page and do a text search on "imaging" or similar) where they emphasis blurring the face but never mention blurring breasts or groin.

    AFAIK, Pistole never said that children until (some age) would NOT be patted down at all, only that they would receive a modified patdown. But the "modification" was never described. Unfortunately, I'm not sure you're going to get very far with that line of argument. TSA parsed their words carefully and people heard what they wanted to; TSA said "modified" and people heard "less invasive" or even "non-existent". For all we know, the "modification" is that screeners hum the theme from Gilligan's Island while they grope.

    Here's Propaganda Village's take (18 Nov 2010):

    And this thread. And this site, quoted in that thread, which says:


    I'm not sure this historical inaccuracy is worth pursuing. The NoS was introduced well before the Undie-bomber but deployment ramped up in early 2010 and that was when it came to wider public attention. However, if you choose to go there, this post on PV dates from April 2008 and this one from August 2009 has links to several earlier posts.

    In addition to the item you suggest, I would print the stories about Stacey Armato, Thomas Sawyer and Sharon Cissna. While any organization makes the odd mistake, one could reasonably ask how many such incidents are acceptable. I would also question the claims about the safety of the backscatter machine - post the news articles from scientists who dispute the conclusion, and ask the good Senator if he can get any actual safety test reports from TSA (not just third hand statements that so-and-so says it's safe).

    I would also link to the report that in testing someone got a gun through the NoS five times out of five, and the GAO report that the scanners are ineffective. Durbin (and his colleagues) seem to be making the faulty assumption that the NoS is worthwhile because it works.
     
  7. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    Working on my draft now. Quick question - I seem to remember an audit by Johns Hopkins on the AIT machines. What was the reason that one wasn't kosher? Was it not done on a production model, was there TSA oversight, something else?
     
  8. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    Okay, not done yet but I'm posting what I have so you all can review it if you want. Thank you in advance for suggestions, and thank you for all the great advice you've given me so far.

    ------------

    Dear Senator Durbin,

    Thank you for your response to my correspondence regarding improper TSA screening procedures at the airport. It is encouraging to know that there are those in Washington who care about the citizens they represent.

    I'd like to respond to some of the points you raised in your letter, however, as I fear you may have been misinformed or misled about some of the technologies and procedures in place at airport checkpoints. I have accompanied this letter with a few relevant documents that I hope you will find interesting, if somewhat alarming. One of these is an image generated by a Rapiscan Secure 1000 backscatter X-ray body scanner – the two leftmost frames of the image can also be found at the body-scan page on the Electronic Privacy Information Center's website. As you mentioned in your letter, TSA claims that these produce a fuzzy or blurry image of the body of the traveler being scanned. However, the image strongly suggests otherwise – buttocks, genitals, and facial features are visible in the image. While it may be difficult to discern identity from the facial features present, it is also clear that no measures have been taken to deliberately obscure them. What concerns me about this is that TSA either has worryingly low standards for what qualifies as “fuzzy” or they have tried to lead us both to believe that the images are of a different nature than they actually are.

    You mentioned the TSA's assertion that the AIT machines would never store, transmit or print images. I must alert you that this is another area wherein I fear you, as well as the people, have been lied to. According to the procurement specification for the AIT devices, they operate in a “screening mode” and a “test mode.” The spec states that in screening mode the machine will be incapable of exporting images and in test mode it will be incapable of screening passengers. At first glance it seems reasonable enough but the document then goes on to state, in Section 3.1.1.3.1.2, that the only function disabled by “test mode” is the projection of an image to the imaging operator's station – the subject is still scanned and a detailed image of the naked body still generated. According to Appendix C of the document, test mode can be enabled via a user account with access level “Z”. The document states that contractor root (superuser) passwords will be disabled by a government representative upon site acceptance, but should that fail to happen it would be possible to run the machine in test mode and, with the assistance of a complicit imaging operator, replace viewing in a booth with the long-term storage (and potential dissemination via internet) of AIT images. User privilege and password-complexity issues aside, the fact that the change can be made in software alone (e.g. without the need for connecting or disconnecting additional physical components which can be taken away by contractors when their work is done) opens the door to privacy compromise via the exploitation of software bugs or software security design flaws. Even if this were not to happen, a recent video on the Internet shows that in some cases it is trivial for the general public to take pictures of the AIT monitor. The video in question can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yvb11glDcFg Though TSA prohibits photography of security monitors, “prohibited” and “impossible” are two very different things and an unscrupulous individual who wanted to capture images from AIT monitors would find very little stopping them from doing so.

    Also worrisome are the TSA claims of harmlessness regarding radiation emitted by their AIT machines. Even the low-energy radiation (10,000 times less than a cell phone) from millimeter-wave body scanners is suspected of causing potentially-mutagenic damage to DNA structures. It is also an established medical fact that ionizing radiation, such as that put out by backscatter X-ray machines, is cumulative over the lifetime of a person and even if a backscatter scan is equal to 2 minutes spent in an airplane, it all adds up. In addition, the radiation air travelers encounter in airplanes is absorbed by the whole body, but backscatter technology focuses radiation on the outer layer of skin, leading to far greater concentration in the exposed area. This problem is compounded by the fact that TSA still has not allowed an independent third party to perform a full evaluation of the technology. All safety audits have been performed either by TSA itself or by the machines' manufacturers. The refusal to allow an independent safety review is highly suspicious and suggests that TSA has something to hide from the American people with regard to AIT machines at airports.

    The alternative to AIT screening, what TSA refers to as the “enhanced pat-down,” is no better and no more acceptable. The most recent example of the invasiveness of this procedure is that of Jean Weber, whose 95-year-old dying mother was forced by TSA employees to remove an adult diaper in order to complete a patdown, but the abuses go back much further. (Stacey Armato, Justine Panieri, et al)

    The AIT devices and patdowns, however, are only a part of the problem that is TSA presence at our nation's airports. There have been over two dozen reports of TSA employees arrested for criminal activity in the past 7 months. Frequent-flyer websites contain innumerable reports of TSOs yelling orders at travelers; singling out the handicapped, the elderly, and veterans for additional screening; and overstepping their authority and ordering all present at the checkpoint to “freeze” as part of a “code bravo” security exercise. These incidents are indicative of a deeply-ingrained culture of authoritarianism and flagrant disrespect for the American people whom the TSA is meant to serve and not to treat with suspicion or hostility.

    (security failures, missed WEI)

    These issues clearly demonstrate that there are major concerns with AIT devices, TSA's portrayal of them to Congress and the American public and, indeed, TSA's entire screening methodology. At this point, I feel these concerns far outweigh any concerns regarding terrorist attacks against air transit as the inconsistency and/or dishonesty put forth by TSA shows a breach of the confidence placed by the public in the organization tasked and trusted with protecting it.

    Sincerely yours,
    CelticWhisper
     
  9. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    Okay, completed draft below. It does break 3 pages in LibreOffice at 10-point font, so I imagine I should start trying to pare it down a bit. Suggestions for that are welcome, as are suggestions for any other way to polish this bad-boy up.

    EDIT: Apparently XenForo has a 10k character limit. Will break into 2 posts.

    -----
    Dear Senator Durbin,

    Thank you for your response to my correspondence regarding improper TSA screening procedures at the airport. It is encouraging to know that there are those in Washington who care about the citizens they represent.

    I'd like to respond to some of the points you raised in your letter, however, as I fear you may have been misinformed or misled about some of the technologies and procedures in place at airport checkpoints. I have accompanied this letter with a few relevant documents that I hope you will find interesting, if somewhat alarming. One of these is an image generated by a Rapiscan Secure 1000 backscatter X-ray body scanner – the two leftmost frames of the image can also be found at the body-scan page on the Electronic Privacy Information Center's website. As you mentioned in your letter, TSA claims that these produce a fuzzy or blurry image of the body of the traveler being scanned. However, the image strongly suggests otherwise – buttocks, genitals, and facial features are visible in the image. While it may be difficult to discern identity from the facial features present, it is also clear that no measures have been taken to deliberately obscure them. What concerns me about this is that TSA has tried to lead us both to believe that the images are of a different nature than they actually are.

    You mentioned the TSA's assertion that the AIT machines would never store, transmit or print images. I must alert you that this is another area wherein I fear you, as well as the people, have been lied to. According to the procurement specification for the AIT devices, they operate in a “screening mode” and a “test mode.” The spec states that in screening mode the machine will be incapable of exporting images and in test mode it will be incapable of screening passengers. At first glance it seems reasonable enough but the document then goes on to state, in Section 3.1.1.3.1.2, that the only function disabled by “test mode” is the projection of an image to the imaging operator's station – the subject is still scanned and a detailed image of the naked body still generated. Appendix C of the document states test mode can be enabled via a user account with access level “Z”, and that contractor passwords will be disabled by a government representative upon site acceptance. Should that fail to happen, it would be possible to run the machine in test mode and, with the assistance of a complicit imaging operator, replace viewing in a booth with the long-term storage (and potential dissemination via Internet) of AIT images. User privilege and password-complexity issues aside, the fact that the change can be made in software alone (e.g. without the need for connecting or disconnecting additional physical components which can be taken away by contractors when their work is done) opens the door to privacy compromise via the exploitation of software bugs or software security design flaws. Even if this were not to happen, a recent video on the Internet shows that in some cases it is trivial for the general public to take pictures of the AIT monitor. The video in question can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yvb11glDcFg Though TSA prohibits photography of security monitors, “prohibited” and “impossible” are two very different things and an unscrupulous individual who wanted to capture images from AIT monitors would find very little stopping them from doing so.

    Also troubling are the TSA claims of harmlessness regarding radiation emitted by their AIT machines – a problem that TSA's Automated Threat Recognition system cannot solve. Even the low-energy radiation (10,000 times less than a cell phone) from millimeter-wave body scanners is suspected of causing potentially-mutagenic damage to DNA structures. It is also an established medical fact that ionizing radiation, such as that put out by backscatter X-ray machines, is cumulative over the lifetime of a person and even if a backscatter scan is equal to 2 minutes spent in an airplane, it all adds up. In addition, the radiation air travelers encounter in airplanes is absorbed by the whole body, but backscatter technology focuses radiation on the outer layer of skin, leading to far greater concentration in the exposed area. Recently a new document was obtained by EPIC that casts further doubt on the safety of these machines (http://epic.org/2011/06/epic-v-dhs-lawsuit----foiad-do.html). This problem is compounded by the fact that TSA still has not allowed an independent third party to perform a full evaluation of the technology. All safety audits have been performed either by TSA itself or by the machines' manufacturers. The refusal to allow an independent safety review is highly suspicious and suggests that TSA has something to hide from the American people with regard to AIT machines at airports.
     
  10. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    Part 2:

    -----

    Many have said that they are willing to sacrifice some of their civil liberties in exchange for safety. While this is a position I feel is extremely dangerous in itself, as I feel there is no cause more important than liberty, it is also not an applicable one in this case as it turns out AIT is not anywhere near as effective as TSA claims it is. An undercover TSA employee was able to pass through AIT scanners with a firearm multiple times, going undetected each time. (http://www.leadingedgestrategies.com/body-imager-fails-to-detect-firearm) Also, the Government Accountability Office has released a report elaborating on the unreliability of the devices. (http://blog.wiredpig.us/2011/03/22/gao-reports-finds-scanners-ineffective/) Given that these machines raise serious privacy and health concerns, it's a serious problem if these devices, which cost from $130K to $170K each, do not even provide the security they're expected to.

    The alternative to AIT screening, what TSA refers to as the “enhanced pat-down,” is no better and no more acceptable. The most recent example of the invasiveness of this procedure is that of Jean Weber, whose 95-year-old terminally-ill mother was forced by TSA employees to remove an adult diaper in order to complete a patdown, but the abuses go back much further. Many travelers have reported aggressive genital contact, referred to sometimes as a “karate chop” and other times, by female travelers, as penetrative.

    You stated in your letter that patdowns are the only proven substitute for AIT scans. This is a point on which I must respectfully disagree. Not on whether or not patdowns are effective compared to AIT, but rather on whether a substitute, or AIT itself, is even necessary. As I had stated in my first letter, the screening regime currently in place is running roughshod over the Fourth-Amendment rights of the people and arguably defies the Supreme Court ruling that US citizens have a right to transit through the navigable airspace.

    The AIT devices and patdowns, however, are only a part of the problem that is TSA presence at our nation's airports. There have been over two dozen reports of TSA employees arrested for criminal activity in the past 7 months. Frequent-flyer websites contain innumerable reports of TSOs yelling orders at travelers; singling out the handicapped, the elderly, and veterans for additional screening; using the expression “Do you want to fly today?” as a means to intimidate or coerce travelers into complying with unethical screening procedures; and overstepping their authority and ordering all present at the checkpoint to “freeze” as part of a “code bravo” security exercise. Stacey Armato, a mother en route back home to her child, was unlawfully detained and harassed by TSA workers over stored breast milk they refused to treat as a medical liquid despite their own public advisory stating the contrary. Thomas Sawyer, a retired teacher, was left covered in urine after TSOs ruptured his urostomy bag during a patdown (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40291856/ns/travel-news/t/tsa-pat-down-leaves-traveler-covered-urine/). AK Representative Sharon Cissna opted to travel back home via a four-day ferry ride because of an invasive patdown she would have otherwise had to endure, prompted by her breast prosthesis showing up on an AIT device. These three incidents are prominent ones but there are many more that can be readily found on the Internet or in newspapers. These incidents are indicative of a deeply-ingrained culture of authoritarianism and flagrant disrespect for the American people whom the TSA is meant to serve and not to treat with suspicion or hostility.

    These issues clearly demonstrate that there are major concerns with AIT devices, TSA's portrayal of them to Congress and the American public and, indeed, TSA's entire screening methodology. At this point, I feel these concerns far outweigh any concerns regarding terrorist attacks against air transit as the inconsistency and/or dishonesty put forth by TSA shows a breach of the confidence placed by the public in the organization tasked and trusted with protecting it. It is time to seriously reconsider our approach to air-travel security in this great nation. Airplane cockpit doors are reinforced and locked, and passengers will never allow a repeat of the 9/11 attacks. It is time to retire TSA's AIT/patdown dichotomy, discontinue both the WBI machines as well as any patdown more intense than those conducted on September 10, 2001, and acknowledge that the civil rights of the people have been disrespected too severely for too long. Those civil rights must be elevated back to the paramount status they once held throughout the nation and TSA must be made to respect them, whether it wants to or not.

    Have a great 4th of July, Senator, and long live the Land of the Free.

    Yours sincerely,
     
  11. RadioGirl

    RadioGirl Original Member

    CW, I've been busy and didn't have time to respond earlier, but you've done a great job here. ^^^

    A few minor suggestions for reduction of text. One of my rules for pruning is look at "A and B" or "A or B" constructions and decide whether you REALLY need both A and B (sometimes you do). For example, early on you say "misinformed or misled"; I would go with just "misinformed". A few words later "technologies and procedures" could just be "procedures" (since the technologies are used as part of a procedure). Same with "fuzzy or blurry". And so on. (FWIW, I use parallelism like this for rhetorical effect, but when a few words have to go, this is where I start.)

    Second, I would leave out the sentence about the MMW scanners possibly causing cancer. There is so little research on this - one paper which is strongly disputed by other scientists - compared to the significant consensus on x-rays, that I think it weakens your argument rather than strengthening it. It's like saying "Eating hamburgers will kill you; so will consuming large quantities of cyanide." (I sigh at the prospect of starting another long debate over radiowave energy/cellphones/etc; if it's really necessary, let's take that to another thread, okay everyone?)

    Third, I would format the letter with hyperlinks as footnotes at the bottom - it makes the main text easier to read and puts them all together in one list. Include as many links as possible and/or print the news articles and attach as separate pages.

    Overall, excellent job. Another ^^^ for you!

    Edit to add: please link to the FOIA documents that EPIC got - see link in the "Caring employer" thread right under this one. Wow.
     
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  12. mikemey

    mikemey Original Member

    I like this letter a lot. I may pilfer it for my "Anything for Security" congresscritter.
     
  13. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    Stupid, stupid me, I completely forgot. I'm sorry.

    *ahem*

    Please consider this letter public domain content. Feel free to copy, alter, derive, reproduce and republish it as you see fit for any purpose you may have.
     
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  14. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    "Supreme court ruling that citizens have right to transit"

    Also 49 USC 40103-a-2. Is that a law or a SCOTUS ruling? Both? How should I refer to it in the letter?
     
  15. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    Also, is there one account of the Stacey Armato incident that's considered definitive or otherwise a cut above the rest?

    Sorry for all the pointed questions but I really want to hammer the point home and I don't want to shoot myself in the foot by linking to half-assed articles.
     
  16. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

  17. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach

    Whoa! That is shocking.

    It is also an argument in the government's response to the CORBETT case:

    It can be found on page 2 of the linked brief.
     
  18. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    Almost done. What are your thoughts on including a link to this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px9ybESIbxQ&feature=player_embedded

    ...and reminding Durbin that the TSA has stated it does not involve the public in exercises or drills? Also, can someone point me to where TSA said that? I'm guessing Blogdad Bob vomited it up on PV at some point.
     
  19. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    Okay, here it is. If no changes are suggested, this will be going out via:

    -E-mail reply
    -Snail-mail
    -Fax

    to Sen. Durbin. I plan on sending a modified copy to Sen. Kirk and Rep. Schakowsky as well, altered only to remove references to "in your letter" as I have not received correspondence from them.

    LETTER BEGINS:
    ---------------

    Dear Senator Durbin,

    Thank you for your response to my correspondence regarding improper TSA screening procedures at the airport. It is encouraging to know that there are those in Washington who care about the citizens they represent, and that you are among them. I now know my vote for you was a sound decision.

    I'd like to respond to some of the points you raised in your letter, however, as I fear you may have been misled about the technologies and procedures in place at airport checkpoints. I have accompanied this letter with a few Internet links that I hope you will find interesting, if somewhat alarming. The first is an image (1) generated by a Rapiscan Secure 1000 backscatter X-ray (BKSX) body scanner. TSA claims that AIT produces a fuzzy picture of a traveler’s body. However, the image strongly suggests otherwise – buttocks, genitals, and facial features are all clearly visible. While it may be difficult to discern identity from the facial features present, it is also clear that no measures have been taken to obscure them. What concerns me about this is that TSA has tried to lead us both to believe that the images are of a different nature than they actually are.

    Your vote on S223 was, without a doubt, the right one. However, the fact that the amendment needed to be proposed at all is a distressing sign that TSA has misled the American public as well as the Senators and Representatives we have elected to protect our interests. TSA has, as you mentioned in your letter, claimed the AIT machines are incapable of storing or transmitting images. However, according to the procurement specification (2) for the AIT devices, they operate in a “screening mode” and a “test mode.” The spec states that in screening mode the machine will be incapable of exporting images and in test mode it will be incapable of screening passengers but SHALL be capable of exporting images. The document states, in Section 3.1.1.3.1.2, that the only function disabled by “test mode” is the display of images to the IO's station - the subject is still scanned and a detailed image of the naked body still generated. Appendix C states test mode can be enabled, entirely in software, via a user account with access level “Z”, and that contractor access will be disabled by a government representative upon site acceptance. Should that not happen, the machine could be run in test mode and, with the assistance of a complicit IO, booth viewing replaced with the long-term storage (and potential Internet distribution) of AIT images. Password issues aside, the fact that modes can be changed in software alone (i.e. without the need for additional physical components which can be removed when contractors’ work is done) opens the door to compromise via exploitation of software bugs. Even if this didn’t happen, a recent video (3) on the Internet shows that it can be trivial for the general public to photograph the AIT monitor. Though TSA prohibits photographing monitors, “prohibited” and “impossible” are two very different things and there would be little to stop an unscrupulous individual who wanted to capture images from AIT monitors.

    Also troubling are TSA’s claims to the safety of radiation emitted by their AIT machines – a problem that TSA's ATR system cannot solve. It is an established medical fact that ionizing radiation, such as that from BKSX machines, is cumulative over an individual’s lifetime and even if a BKSX scan is equal to 2 minutes spent in an airplane, it still adds up. In addition, radiation encountered at altitude is absorbed by the whole body, but BKSX focuses on the outermost layer of skin, leading to far greater concentration in the exposed area. Recently, a new document (4) obtained by EPIC cast further doubt on the safety of these machines. This problem is compounded by the fact that TSA still has not allowed an independent third party to evaluate the devices’ radiological risk. All safety audits have been performed either by TSA itself or by the machines' manufacturers. Refusal to allow an independent audit is highly suspicious and suggests that TSA has something to hide with regard to its AIT initiative.
     
  20. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    PART 2
    -------------

    Some people have said that they are willing to sacrifice an amount of freedom in exchange for safety. While this sentiment is extremely dangerous in its own right, as America knows of no cause more crucial than liberty, it is also not an applicable one in this case: AIT is nowhere near as effective as TSA claims. An undercover TSO with a firearm was able to pass through AIT scanners, undetected, multiple times (5). Also, the GAO has released a report on the unreliability of the devices (6). Given that these machines raise nontrivial privacy and health concerns, it's an equally serious problem if these expensive devices do not even provide the security they're expected to.

    The alternative to AIT, what TSA calls the “enhanced pat-down,” is no better and no more acceptable. The most recent example of this procedure’s invasiveness is that of a 95-year-old terminally-ill woman was forced by TSOs to remove an adult diaper in order to complete a patdown, but the abuses go back much further. Many travelers have reported aggressive genital contact, referred to sometimes as a “karate chop” and other times, by female travelers, as penetrative.

    You stated in your letter that patdowns are the only proven substitute for AIT scans. I must respectfully disagree, not on the effectiveness of patdowns versus AIT, but on whether a substitute, or AIT itself, is even necessary. As I stated in my first letter, TSA’s current screening paradigm is running roughshod over the Constitutional rights of the people and defies the Supreme Court ruling that US citizens have a right to air travel within the US. In this respect, TSA is quite plainly breaking the law.

    The AIT devices and patdowns, however, are only a part of the problem that is TSA presence at US airports. There have been numerous accounts of TSA employees arrested for criminal activity in the past 7 months alone (7). Frequent-flyer websites hold countless reports of TSOs yelling orders at travelers; singling out the handicapped, the elderly, and veterans for invasive screening; using the expression “Do you want to fly today?” to intimidate people into compliance with questionable directions; and exceeding their authority by ordering all present at the checkpoint to “freeze” as part of a “code bravo” security exercise (8) despite claims that the public would not be involved in exercises. The TSA Administrator himself has been quoted (9) as saying that flying is not a right, in direct opposition to 49 USC Section 40103-(a)-(2) which explicitly states that “A citizen of the United States has a public right of transit through the navigable airspace.”

    Stacey Armato, while en route back home to her child, was unlawfully detained and harassed (10) by TSOs over stored breast milk they refused to treat as a medical liquid despite their own public advisory stating the contrary (11). Thomas Sawyer, a retired teacher, was covered in urine after TSOs ruptured his urostomy bag during a patdown (12). AK Representative Sharon Cissna opted to travel back home via a four-day ferry ride because of an invasive patdown she would have otherwise had to endure, prompted by her breast prosthesis showing up on an AIT device (13). These three incidents are prominent ones but there are many more that can be readily found on the Internet or in newspapers. These are indicative of a deeply-ingrained culture of authoritarianism and flagrant disrespect for the American people whom the TSA is meant to serve and not to treat with suspicion or hostility.

    These issues clearly demonstrate that there are major concerns with AIT devices, TSA's portrayal of them to Congress and the American public and, indeed, TSA's entire screening methodology. At this point I feel these concerns far outweigh any concerns regarding terrorist attacks against air transit, as the dishonesty put forth by TSA constitutes a betrayal of public confidence in an organization trusted with protecting us. It is time to seriously reconsider our approach to air-travel security in this great nation. Airplane cockpit doors are reinforced and locked, and passengers will never allow a repeat of the 9/11 attacks. It is time to retire TSA's AIT/patdown dichotomy, discontinue both the WBI machines as well as any patdown more intense than those conducted on September 10, 2001, and acknowledge that the civil rights of the people have been disrespected too severely for too long. Those rights must be regarded once more as inviolable and TSA must be made to respect them, whether it wants to or not.

    Have a great 4th of July, Senator, and long live the Land of the Free.

    Yours sincerely,

    (CelticWhisper)

    1: Rapiscan Secure 1000 image: http://rupture.co.uk/Terminal 4.html


    2: TSA AIT/WBI Procurement Specification: http://epic.org/open_gov/foia/TSA_Procurement_Specs.pdf

    3: Video of unsecured AIT monitor taken by traveler: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yvb11glDcFg

    4: EPIC FOIA radiation-hazard document: http://epic.org/2011/06/epic-v-dhs-lawsuit----foiad-do.html

    5: Firearm smuggled past AIT by undercover auditor: http://www.leadingedgestrategies.com/body-imager-fails-to-detect-firearm

    6: GAO report on AIT: (http://blog.wiredpig.us/2011/03/22/gao-reports-finds-scanners-ineffective/)

    7: List of TSA crimes and other abuses: http://www.travelunderground.org/index.php?pages/fisher-masterlist/

    8: Video of “Code Bravo” exercise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px9ybESIbxQ&feature=player_embedded

    9: TSA Administrator Pistole stating flying is not a right: http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/20...-screening-they-dont-have-a-right-to-fly.html

    10: Stacey Armato detained and harrassed: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...wanting-pumped-milk-passed-X-ray-machine.html

    11: TSA advisory on breast milk/formula: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/children/formula.shtm

    12: Thomas Sawyer patdown: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40291856/ns/travel-news/t/tsa-pat-down-leaves-traveler-covered-urine/

    13: Rep. Cissna’s account of TSA patdown: http://akdemocrats.org/rep_cissna/2011/02/23/rep-sharon-cissna-gives-account-of-tsa-experience/
     

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