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Government Security

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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  • Naturally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:35PM (#39479825)
    We would not want to threaten the profits of all those backscatter machine companies by pointing out how little TSA's airport security really accomplishes, now would we? What, you think that because Schneier is a prominent security researcher, he is supposed to be talking about the failures of security programs?
    • Re:Naturally (Score:5, Informative)

      by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday March 26, 2012 @08:00PM (#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.)

      • Re:Naturally (Score:5, Insightful)

        by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday March 26, 2012 @08:11PM (#39480139)
        Oh, so they called in another expert who has done the same analysis as Schneier, right? Or will it just be the TSA's choice of experts?
      • Re:Naturally (Score:5, Insightful)

        by qeveren (318805) on Monday March 26, 2012 @08:29PM (#39480293)

        If he's in a conflict of interest due to the lawsuit against the TSA, doesn't that mean the TSA shouldn't be allowed to testify either, being involved in a lawsuit involving the TSA? :)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You forget that the Judge Dredd rule applies, and they are the law.

      • Re:Naturally (Score:5, Interesting)

        by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday March 26, 2012 @09:34PM (#39480629)

        Or the lady who was forced to milk herself in a public restroom, or else have her equipment seized by the TSA as "contraband".

        Have her breasts seized? Sure, I can understand that; probably more than 3oz of liquid in those things. If she wants to get them through security, she needs to wrap them in plastic and write "Saline Solution" on them. See Bruce Schneier: The Things He Carried [schneier.com]

        Schneier took from his bag a 12-ounce container labeled "saline solution."

        "It's allowed," he said. Medical supplies, such as saline solution for contact-lens cleaning, don't fall under the TSA's three-ounce rule.

        "What's allowed?" I asked. "Saline solution, or bottles labeled saline solution?"

        "Bottles labeled saline solution. They won't check what's in it, trust me."

        They did not check. As we gathered our belongings, Schneier held up the bottle and said to the nearest security officer, "This is okay, right?" "Yep," the officer said. "Just have to put it in the tray."

        "Maybe if you lit it on fire, he'd pay attention," I said, risking arrest for making a joke at airport security. (Later, Schneier would carry two bottles labeled saline solution—24 ounces in total—through security. An officer asked him why he needed two bottles. "Two eyes," he said. He was allowed to keep the bottles.)

        • Re:Naturally (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Ash Vince (602485) * on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @07:39AM (#39482979) Journal

          Have her breasts seized? Sure, I can understand that; probably more than 3oz of liquid in those things. If she wants to get them through security, she needs to wrap them in plastic and write "Saline Solution" on them. See Bruce Schneier: The Things He Carried [schneier.com]

          The link you posted has a very relevant and insightful paragraph where it details exactly what has made flying safer:

          "Counterterrorism in the airport is a show designed to make people feel better," he said. "Only two things have made flying safer: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers."

          This is mostly spot on, but part of making people go through a heightened security screen is to remind them of the threat.

          Here in the UK we had had terrorism since before I was born, we simply have less need be reminded. I expect most Israelis feel them same way since they have had a similar problem. We are used to looking out for people behaving suspiciously, we are used to keeping an eye out for unattended bags in airports or other places people congregate. There is a reason that most UK mainline train stations have no litter bins, we removed them all when the IRA decided to leave bombs in them in the 80's and 90's.

          The IRA very rarely targeted air travel as they were less likely in mass killing of civilians in the later years and more interested in property damage but they still used explosives and people still died so we got used to having to keep an eye out. Now we have to keep an eye out in different places and for different things but we are still more used to being alert in the same way.

          You guys in the US have never had to worry about domestic terrorism in the same way before so it is only natural you are still trying to figure out how to deal with it. It is very scary that one of your fellow citizens wants to turn on you but you have no idea exactly who. Many people though deal with this fear by blocking it out and not thinking about it, forcing people to jump through some hoops also forces them to think about it at times when it is very important.

          • Re:Naturally (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Svartalf (2997) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @09:34AM (#39483753) Homepage

            "Counterterrorism in the airport is a show designed to make people feel better,"

            I don't feel better, nor do most other people in fact. It's part of the reason the airline industry's hurting. In the large, most people don't travel any more by air unless they have to because of this tripe.

      • Re:Naturally (Score:5, Insightful)

        by random_ID (1822712) on Monday March 26, 2012 @11:17PM (#39481139)

        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.

        Why? Testifying before congress isn't like serving as a judge where conflict of interest is not permitted. Why shouldn't someone with a grievance be permitted to testify before Congress?

  • Not a Hearing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:36PM (#39479837)
    Cherry picking speakers to support the status quo is just theater, nicely complementing the security theater of the TSA.
    • Re:Not a Hearing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:47PM (#39479937)

      what makes you think that lawmakers have our interests at heart or care about fairness?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_Un-American_Activities_Committee [wikipedia.org]

      that was the first one that popped into my head; I'm sure I could find lots of other 'railroaded' committees that didn't care about justice and only wanted to make it seems like there was a process.

      more and more, as you see how 'justice' works, you realize its all a show.

      how sad, huh? to learn how reality works; it really rocks your world view, doesn't it?

  • Figures (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:39PM (#39479861)
    The committee is controlled by neo-cons. They do not want to hear what is happening. They just want the APPEARANCE of such, esp. with the election around the corner.
  • is on Twitter @DarrellIssa Anyone so inclined could tweet the link to Schneier's blog.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:41PM (#39479885)

    If there truly were a population of evil doers who both wished harm on the US and were really willing to work toward that goal, we would have bus stop bombings, etc. in this country. There are tons of unsecured stuff that could be attacked here very easily.

    The fact that such does not occur is proof that such a population is largely non-existent and certainly nowhere near being worth all the BS with the Terrorism Industrial Complex.

    • by malilo (799198) on Monday March 26, 2012 @08:35PM (#39480341)

      You are exactly correct. I was on a boating trip with several couples whom I didn't know and people started complaining about TSA. One poor woman ventured her opinion "but I think it's all ok because it keeps us safe"... I pointed out that I could kill plenty of people by wedging a bit of metal into a commuter track. She gave me a horrified look along with "Why would you even think of that?", but I think I made my point.

      The problem is, they've already got a huge chunk of the country, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, convinced that we are under constant threat of attack. (It's the lizard brain, I guess). So once they put in place checkpoints EVERYWHERE (which yes, is their plan, the fascisty fucks), it will actually be a bit harder to find the evidence you and I have both noted (once everything is surveilled, it will be hard to argue there's been no attacks because no one is trying). Also, I suspect violence would actually go up, as more people joined resistance/anti-fascist/terrorist groups in response to a crackdown. But I'm just speculating.

      • by runeghost (2509522) on Monday March 26, 2012 @09:42PM (#39480665)
        From Gustave Gilbert's transcripts of his conversations with Herman Goering at Nuremberg:

        "Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

        "There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

        "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."
      • by steelfood (895457)

        Also, I suspect violence would actually go up, as more people joined resistance/anti-fascist/terrorist groups in response to a crackdown.

        You're giving people too much credit:

        - The people who object to such things and are not habitually violent have too much to lose to commit acts of violence.

        - The people who likewise would object to such tactics and are likely to commit acts of violence are too busy committing acts of violence against their own neighbors, family, and friends.

        - Everybody else wants the surveillance because they think it keeps them safe.

        Sadly, the majority of the people fall into the latter category. The next largest category

  • by sgt_doom (655561) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:44PM (#39479901)
    ...who also made himself available for testimoney before congress -- and was never called to testify -- after he blew the whistle on the NSA's installation of those Narus boxes at AT&T switches (throughout America, most probably and at IXPs or EPs, as well).
  • Facts vs Fiction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BoRegardless (721219) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:47PM (#39479929)

    Dictatorial government actions often start by "limiting voices", regardless of the country.

    This is not a good omen for getting the best solutions for a critical issue.

    The list of government witnesses in prior hearings were "officials" of various departments, meaning they are managers of employees.

    Eliminating Bruce Schneier from the witness list means they really do NOT want any experts in front of the committee as that could bring up troubling "FACTS".

  • by Kelson (129150) * on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:50PM (#39479955) Homepage Journal

    This is the same committee that wouldn't let any women testify in a hearing on contraception last month.

    Apparently, if you know something about the topic at hand, they don't want your input.

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:55PM (#39479989)

    That seems a little over-the-top. Sure it strips your clothes off your body, to display a naked gray image of your breasts and penis. Sure the guards have been caught asking particular gorgeous women to step through the machine multiple times. Sure some TSA agents have posted personal notes like "Get your freak on" in lady's luggage. Sure some of those images have been leaked by those same guards to the internet......

    Never mind. I guess the description was apart afterall.


  • by McGruber (1417641) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:56PM (#39479999)

    Since it is popular to post "Thanks to TSA, I now drive instead of flying", I will point out that the House and Senate are currently in a showdown that likely will result in a cutoff of federal highway funding.

    Here is a CNN article about the situation: http://articles.cnn.com/2012-03-21/politics/politics_congress-transportation-bill_1_committee-chairman-john-mica-highway-bill-senate-democrats [cnn.com]

    And a FoxNews article: http:/// [http] www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/03/24/obama-urging-congress-to-end-transportation-standoff/

    And a Politico article: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0312/74498.html [politico.com]

    • by cvtan (752695)
      That planned highway to Hawaii will be the first thing to be cut.
    • by element-o.p. (939033) on Monday March 26, 2012 @09:05PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Monday March 26, 2012 @08:56PM (#39480459)
    When is the time right for us to arm ourselves and kick every one of these fucking criminals out of the elected offices they hold? I think the OWS thing should have been done in D.C. and they should have marched right into the capitol building and the white house. There's no way they could contain that size of group short of opening fire with live rounds.

    Maybe when we see piles of dead US citizens that were once our brothers and sisters would we then WAKE THE FUCK UP. This country needs another revolution worse than Madonna needs to retire.

    Who will lead us into the new revolution? Who would have real good ideas for fixing our broken democracy? I elect Neil deGrasse Tyson [wikipedia.org], and maybe Ron Paul could help as well.
  • by phoomp (1098855) on Monday March 26, 2012 @10:00PM (#39480771)
    Does selective oversight into TSA security theatre equate to Oversight Theatre?
  • Game over (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Monday March 26, 2012 @10:18PM (#39480863)
    Its official. The monkeys are running the zoo.
  • by jcr (53032) <{moc.cam} {ta} {rcj}> on Monday March 26, 2012 @10:22PM (#39480891) Journal

    In a related story, the congress is holding hearings on the magnificence of the emperor's clothing, and are excluding outspoken children from testifying.


  • 911 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:02AM (#39481323)

    Unfortunately, as a country after 911 we said we don't care about our rights, just protect us from the terrorists. It's our own fault. Once you lose your liberty, it's hard to get it back. We might as well dismantle the Statue of Liberty, she doesn't stand for anything anymore.

"Necessity is the mother of invention" is a silly proverb. "Necessity is the mother of futile dodges" is much nearer the truth. -- Alfred North Whitehead