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Congress Capitulates To TSA; Refuses To Let Bruce Schneier Testify 435

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the security-threatre-drama-troupe dept.
McGruber writes "Following up on an earlier Slashdot story, earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a hearing titled 'TSA Oversight Part III: Effective Security or Security Theater?' ... In a blog update, Bruce Schneier says that 'at the request of the TSA' he was removed from the witness list. Bruce also said 'it's pretty clear that the TSA is afraid of public testimony on the topic, and especially of being challenged in front of Congress. They want to control the story, and it's easier for them to do that if I'm not sitting next to them pointing out all the holes in their position. Unfortunately, the committee went along with them.'"
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Congress Capitulates To TSA; Refuses To Let Bruce Schneier Testify

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  • is on Twitter @DarrellIssa Anyone so inclined could tweet the link to Schneier's blog.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:44PM (#39479905)

    Same congress that prevented any women from testifying on women's health issues recently.

    I believe you mean "one woman from testifying on religious freedom issues". The issue before congress was whether the mandate was a potential violation of the rights of religious institutions. It was not an evil panel of old men trying to put a baby in every woman's uterus.

  • Re:Naturally (Score:5, Informative)

    by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:00PM (#39480033)

    No it's because Schneier has a conflict-of-interest since he's a hostile party in an ongoing lawsuit against the TSA. It makes sense that he would be excluded.

    Maybe they should get the breast-feeding woman who was locked in a glass jail for an hour (and missed her plane) to testify before Congress. Her crime? She wanted to carry milk home to her new baby.

    Or Miss America who was brought to tears by the TSA groping.

    Or the lady who was forced to milk herself in a public restroom, or else have her equipment seized by the TSA as "contraband". Or the "don't touch my junk" guy. Or the 3 elderly ladies who were strip-searched. Or the young woman who overheard TSA guards commenting she had a "fine body" and asking her to step through the scanner 3 times. Or..... (Just read infowars.com or RTamerica.com; it summarizes all this stuff.)

  • by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:01PM (#39480045)

    Can some one point to the airport exclusion? Or where congress amended the constitution to allow this?

    They didn't need to. The prohibition is against "unreasonable" searches. That means reasonable ones are allowed. Guess who gets to define "unreasonable"? Well, "reasonable" has been defined to include "voluntary", and "voluntary" has been defined to mean "going past this point" when there is a sign that says "by going past this point you are subject to search."

    The same kind of argument against TSA searches would apply to searches conducted at the entrance to military bases.

    Bruce's appearance had already been cancelled last week, at least by Friday, when the slashdot story about how it was mandatory to use facebook was posted. The FA didn't say why, just that it had been.

  • by McGruber (1417641) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:02PM (#39480055)

    is on Twitter @DarrellIssa Anyone so inclined could tweet the link to Schneier's blog.

    And we could post the link here:

    http://twitter.com/#!/darrellissa [twitter.com]

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:14PM (#39480167)

    Which means we shouldn't be searched for airflights (or trains or cars) that travel internal to the U.S. and cross no borders. And yet they do it all the time.

    I was caught in several of these while following I-8 from California to Texas. Most just waved me past, but one stop demanded to search my trunk. I refused. ("No warrant; no search." - ACLU of DC.) As punishment they made me stand in the hot sun for an hour & get a nasty burn. Bastards. The SA and Homeland cops think they can look anyplace they want.

  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:41PM (#39480373) Homepage
    Yes, they are. Here are the citations for those so inclined:

    NYPD wanting to run scanners on the streets of New York [techeye.net]
    TSA searching cars pulling up to the loading/unloading ramp at an airport [patch.com]
    VIPR search in a train station [blogspot.com]
    Another VIPR search at a train station [wptv.com]
    Stopping commercial vehicles on a highway in Arizona [trivalleycentral.com]
    Searches at a bus station [kcci.com]

    I'm sure there are more, but that should be enough to prove that no, the powers-that-be aren't limiting violations of the 4th Amendment to the airports.
  • Re:TSA and DHS (Score:4, Informative)

    by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:47PM (#39480407)

    The president cannot dissolve any agency created by the Laws passed by Congress. He cannot dissolve the FAA or HUD or DHS. It's his job to execute those laws. He COULD tell Janet Napolitano to stop acting like Big Brother though, since he is her boss.

  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Monday March 26, 2012 @08:05PM (#39480499) Homepage
    Not to mention this:
    How do you drive anywhere from here? [google.com]

    If you've got a solution for travel for the 5,000 or so residents of this little town (or the more or less equivalent number of people in the surrounding communities -- and no, this is not unusual up here in Alaska), I'd love to hear about it. "Not driving" isn't a much better option for me either [google.com], although it is at least possible...it would just take my entire two weeks of leave getting anywhere I might want to go and back, with no time to actually do anything once I arrive. That makes at least a half million of us for whom "Just drive instead!" isn't a viable option.
  • by jank1887 (815982) on Monday March 26, 2012 @08:06PM (#39480503)

    Here's the committee, see any of yours on there? Send 'em an angrygram.
    http://oversight.house.gov/committee-members/ [house.gov]

    specifically, ask them who they'll be inviting instead to provide counterpoint, if not Mr. Schneier.
    Ask them how they can assume the TSA, which must provide a biased story to (1) avoid contradicting previous statements, (2) to protect their future budget and (3) to successfully defend the lawsuit for which Mr. Schneier was removed, can be considered an unbiased source of information. (Oh wait, they're federal employees, altruism must be taken for granted)

  • by lgw (121541) on Monday March 26, 2012 @08:07PM (#39480513) Journal

    Hey, you're the one who entered the Constitution-free zone [aclu.org], what did you expect. The majority of Americans live in that zone, by some amazing coincidence.

  • by The Wild Norseman (1404891) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (namesron.wt)> on Monday March 26, 2012 @08:32PM (#39480623)

    Educate yourself before spouting this nonsense.

    Throughout the entire history of this country, taking from examples even before that, it has been firmly held that the jury is both the trier of fact as well as law, and that a jury is seen as a final check against governmental abuse.

    You're also wrong in that judges certainly have the ability to ask questions themselves of defendants and witnesses and it used to be the case that jurors could as well. Jurors were allowed to and encouraged to take notes, but not much any more. Why? Because of the FUD that judges try to pull over on the populace and that attorneys are complicit in these days by claiming the nonsense that you're claiming now.

  • If you say "I won't find anyone guilty of that law because I don't like it", then you are not doing your job as a jurur.

    No, if you say, "I won't find anyone guilty of that law because in this case it violates a higher law, the constitution." then you are simply doing your duty as a juror.

    See STETTINIUS v. UNITED STATES [constitution.org] and also pre-U.S. history to jury trials.

    John Jay, the 1st Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, stated that jurors possess “a right to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy.”

    You don't think that the founders, who had just been criminally prosecuted by the British and protected by juries, expected the right to a jury trial to protect people from unjust laws?

    During the American Revolution, juries regularly acquitted colonists convicted under British laws and before the Civil War, juries acquitted abolitionists and slaves accused of violating the Fugitive Slave Act.

    If you are on a jury, you hold in your hands the responsibility to determine if the person in front of you should be punished by the State. Don't think you can evade that responsibility by saying you will leave it to the government to decide if the law is just or not.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday March 26, 2012 @08:59PM (#39480759) Homepage Journal

    Again we find somebody on slashdot egregiously misrepresenting the meaning of the Amendments. What that Amendment means is that the Constitution does not contain a comprehensive list of your rights. You may have other rights not listed here. Film at 11.

    Which, coincidentally, is covered by the 10th Amendment:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    It's almost as if the founders anticipated this sort of thing...

  • by man_ls (248470) on Monday March 26, 2012 @09:09PM (#39480821)

    "Not Guilty" exists because people did exactly what you're saying no juror should do. Prior to that, the choices were "proven" or "not proven" - with no possibility at all for "what provably happened does not deserve punishment".

    It's a corruption of the entire history of trial by jury to suggest jurors shouldn't consider the justness of the law along with the facts of the case they're trying, and also is a grievous insult to the personal capacity of jurors.

  • Re:Utter Bullshit (Score:2, Informative)

    by Shavano (2541114) on Monday March 26, 2012 @09:10PM (#39480827)

    9/11 didn't happen because TSA wasn't on duty yet. 9/11 happened because up until that point, the game went like this:
    "Terrorist" hijacks an airplane
    Everyone sits tight and does what they are told.
    Airplane goes to Cuba (or wherever).
    Everyone goes home a little shaken up, but unharmed after a nice vacation on a tropical island that very few Americans get to see any more.

    That's a fantasy. Here are some facts:

    5 July 1972; Pacific Southwest 737-200; San Francisco, CA: The aircraft was on a scheduled flight from Sacramento to San Francisco when shortly before landing it was hijacked by two armed men who intended to have the aircraft fly to the Soviet Union. After landing in San Francisco, the aircraft was directed to an isolated part of the airport while the hijackers negotiated with authorities. Later, an armed FBI agent posing as the pilot that would fly the aircraft to the Soviet Union entered the aircraft while, unknown to the hijackers, three other armed FBI agents were able to position themselves near the front entry door. As the three outside FBI agents began to climb the stairs to enter the aircraft, a gun battle broke out which resulted in the deaths of both of the hijackers and one of the 77 passengers. Two other passengers were wounded, but survived. None of the seven crew members were injured.
    17 December 1973, Pan Am 747, Rome, Italy: While the aircraft was at the gate loading passengers, a group of terrorists shot at the plane and threw incendiary grenades into the aircraft, killing 30. The terrorists later hijacked a nearby Lufthansa 737.
    747 events involving passenger fatalities
    14 June 1985; TWA 727 Athens, Greece: The aircraft was hijacked and the 153 crew and passengers were taken hostage for several days. A U.S. military member was killed by the hijackers during this time.
    5 September 1986; Pan Am 747; Karachi, Pakistan: Four hijackers attempted to take control of the aircraft while it was on the ground, but the flight crew departed through the cockpit escape hatch. About 16 passengers were killed before the hijacking ended.
    7 December 1987; Pacific Southwest Airlines BAe146-200; near San Luis Obispo, CA: A recently fired USAir employee used his invalidated credentials to board the aircraft with a pistol and apparently killed his former manager and both pilots (USAir had recently purchased PSA). All five crew members and the 37 other passengers were killed.

    That changed on 9/11, and we had already adjusted to the new playing field before the day was done. [wikipedia.org] The new paradigm, and securing the cabin doors, were all that was necessary to ensure that there will NEVER be another 9/11. IMHO, if you really want to prevent another hijacking on an airliner, you'll scrap the TSA and just issue every passenger a Louisville Slugger when they board the airplane. The passengers have the greatest vested interest in the security; stop trying to disarm your greatest allies in the quest for secure airliners!

    That would usually work, but a small aircraft flown off-hours could be dominated by a handful of terrorists and it would still be a very deadly weapon. If you relax security too much, it would be possible to bring weapons on the plane that could be used to neutralize the passengers and crew even on a large plane.

    And even the argument I pose above begs the ultimate question in the so-called "War on Terror:" WTF were the 9/11 hijackers doing in the country in the first place?!?! If you *start* your security procedure in the airport, you've already screwed the pooch. IIRC, we had reason to believe at least some of the hijackers were bad actors long before they boarded the airplanes in 2001. They never should have been allowed to get to the airport to begin with.

    If you can't see that it's much easier and less intrusive to secure a few hundred small sites than to secure thousands of miles of border through which we must ship hundreds of billions of dollars worth of materials, I don't see how anything can penetrate your head.

  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Monday March 26, 2012 @09:21PM (#39480883) Homepage
    I don't know if you're trolling, intentionally disingenuous or just misinformed, so I'll assume the latter. Nevertheless, it might be a good idea to actually visit here before trying to tell my why I'm wrong about the place I've lived for over twenty years.

    That is absurd. It wasn't the US government that decided that people should build a village in an area so remote that it was impractical to build a road that would be passable in the winter. The people who live there decided that they wanted to live in a place that's inaccessible. You can't blame the government for that. (Well, you can blame them, but you can't expect such absurd blaming to go without response.)

    Ummm...you do realize that most of the peoples on the west coast of Alaska have lived there for longer than there even has been a United States government, don't you?

    Also, are you asserting that the small private planes that go in and out of remote villages in Alaska are subject to the same screenings as airliners going in and out of major airports? I have no personal experience with that IN ALASKA, but I have been in and out of small private airfields in other states and there was no security theatre whatsoever.

    The degree of security depends upon the airport and the type of operation being conducted. If you are flying with a Part 135 (air taxi) operator out of smaller airports, no, there is not much security. However, even the Part 141 (scheduled air carriers, i.e., airlines) fly into some surprisingly small airports. For example, Iliamna is off the road system, and IIRC, it does have airport security. Again, as I stated with the Bethel example, there is essentially no way in or out of Iliamna except by airplane. Furthermore, maybe you haven't been keeping tabs, but TSA has tried twice (so far) to expand the scope of airport security to include smaller operators and smaller airplanes. So far, there has been enough public outcry to prevent this, but then again, I never expected that we would see the crap we currently see at the airports.

    The only precautions were to ensure that the person taking the plane out was the plane's owner. You didn't have to show a pilot's license and nobody cared who might be along for a ride.

    If you are talking about non-commercial services, then yes, you are correct. In some cases, there is even less security than you mention. I own an airplane based at Merrill Field here in Anchorage, and the only thing you need to get in my airplane and fly away is the key to remove the prop lock (and a good deal of luck -- the Rotax 503 powering it is a cranky, temperamental POS). However, the myth that everyone in Alaska owns an airplane and/or has access to a private airplane is exactly that -- a myth. One in ten people here are pilots, but a good number of them don't own airplanes. A good number of those that do, don't own airplanes that are currently airworthy; it's expensive to own an airplane (mine isn't, for example).

    Furthermore, if you think a private plane is an acceptable substitute for an airliner, then you have absolutely no idea of the scale of Alaska nor the difficulty of crossing the state in a small airplane. Summers up here are often rainy with low overcast skies. Couple that with the majority of the state covered with some really freaking huge mountain ranges (you do know that nine of the sixteen highest peaks in North America are in Alaska, don't you?), and it's not a trivial matter to cross the state in a small airplane. Filing IFR often isn't a possibility because of icing, even in the summer. In the winter, things are even more difficult due to limited daylight hours and extreme temperatures (most Cessnas aren't designed to fly at -20F or less, even though it *can* be done).

    So if Alaska is anything like the other states I've lived in, it's perfectly possible for people living in outlying villages to hitch a ride to town and from there

  • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Monday March 26, 2012 @11:11PM (#39481349)

    and no hijackings of airlines

    I can't figure out if you're being sarcastic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_aircraft_hijackings#1960s [wikipedia.org]

    That being said, I think the only thing the TSA should be searching for is bombs and guns. Everything else (sharps / baby formula / pictures of guns) should be allowed through. There's nothing a hijacker can do with a sharp any more.

  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:31AM (#39481673) Homepage
    I suppose I could have been a little more clear. Yes, I have a Rotax powered airplane, and yes, I have flown it around Alaska. The Rotax is a cranky, temperamental POS, but only when I'm trying to start it. Once running, mine, at least, has never missed a beat. The second caveat is that my airplane has a pretty good glide ratio -- much, much better than the Cessnas that I learned to fly in. Finally, the farthest I have flown *my* airplane is to Talkeetna, about 65 N.M. north of Anchorage. That's about a 1.5 - 2 hour trip in a Cessna, but I logged over three hours in my airplane on that trip.

    As for the unforgiving environment...it is unforgiving, but I don't want to exaggerate the danger. There are some places where, if you crash, you are going to be in a world of hurt. The Alaska Range and the Brooks Range are great examples, and you have to cross the Alaska Range to get to the villages on the west coast I mentioned earlier. Merrill Pass, one of the gateways from southcentral Alaska where I live to the west coast is literally peppered with airplane wreckage. I flew that pass once, but on a day when the ceilings were 11,000 feet. Most pilots who get into trouble there do so on days when the weather is iffy. The problem is, you have to make a blind corner to enter the pass, which is really narrow. If the weather's good where you are at, but bad in the pass, you've got nowhere to go but into the clouds, and that's bad news in a narrow, almost vertical-walled canyon.

    In other words, the flying is great here when the weather is good, but the weather can change quickly in some areas, and mountain flying introduces even more risk to the equation. Consequently, private airplanes are a common way to travel in the state, but it is unreliable, and a lot of routes simply aren't feasible without airlines due to the overall distance or the distance between possible fuel stops along your route.

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