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DHS Gets Public Comment, Whether It Wants It Or Not 228

Posted by timothy
from the why-not-just-sell-your-dhs-stock? dept.
OverTheGeicoE writes "The motion to force DHS to start its public comment period is still working its way through the court (DHS: 'We're not stonewalling!', EPIC: 'Yes, you are!'). While we wait for the decision, Cato Institute's Jim Harper points out another way for the public to comment on body scanners, tsacomment.com. Even before this site existed, of course, the government was receiving public comment anyway in the form of passenger complaint letters, which they buried in their files. Even so, the public can get a chance to view those comments as the result of Freedom of Information Act requests. An FOIA request about pat-downs by governmentattic.org yielded hundreds of pages of letters to the government from 2010, including frequent reports of pat-down induced PTSD and sexual abuse trauma."
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DHS Gets Public Comment, Whether It Wants It Or Not

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  • Popular vote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @01:51PM (#41325849)

    I believe I speak for many Americans when I say my comment is "Go away."

    • by Desler (1608317)

      You actually speak for a minority of Americans. Most people love the security theater.

      • It would be better with free popcorn. Of course, you'd never get it on the plane.

      • Re:Popular vote (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cpu6502 (1960974) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:18PM (#41326131)

        The majority also supported the roundup of Japanese-americans during WW2, depriving them of their liberty, property, and right to a jury trial. That doesn't make the majority's trampeling of individual rights okay, either then or now.

        • Re:Popular vote (Score:4, Insightful)

          by schlachter (862210) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:53PM (#41326441)

          The majority is often wrong. To see this, you only have to look to slavery, segregation, anti-semitism, the Iraq war, and Nazi politics among other things.

          In times like this you need strong clear leadership from the few in power.

          • Re:Popular vote (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Hatta (162192) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @04:03PM (#41327241) Journal

            Only if you assume that the few in power are morally better than the majority. But since they're drawn from the same pool, and the process of obtaining power selects against the wise and the kind, you can be assured that they are not.

            We do not give power to the majority because the majority is wise. We do so to dilute the influence of individual corruption. If a king rules in a way that only benefits the king, you can be assured that most of his subjects are suffering. If the majority rules in a way that only benefits the majority, then at least 50% of the people are happy.

        • by Type44Q (1233630)

          The majority also supported the roundup of Japanese-americans during WW2, depriving them of their liberty, property, and right to a jury trial. That doesn't make the majority's trampeling of individual rights okay, either then or now.

          Does anybody here know why they were rounded up? I'm embarrassed to admit (as someone raised in Japan) that I thought the round-up was a simple knee-jerk reaction to Pearl Harbor. Rather, even our gullible, culturally-clueless 40's era forebears could obviously sense that there was something extremely different about culturally-homogenous Japanese society; even 2nd and 3rd-generation Japanese-Americans demonstrated that they weren't immune to its conditioning effect [wikipedia.org].

      • by Dan667 (564390)
        I have yet to see anyone thrilled with the tsa treating them like a criminal
    • Re:Popular vote (Score:5, Insightful)

      by firex726 (1188453) <firex726.yahoo@com> on Thursday September 13, 2012 @01:55PM (#41325895)

      Many yes, but far too many feel that "If that's the price we have to pay for safety, then so be it".
      Which of course has SO much wrong with it.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        The SA wouldn't be so bad if they just operated in airports (which was the 9/11 attack originated), but they are expanding their domain to other areas. Buses. Train stations. Malls, post offices, social security centers, public parks, GOP and DNC conventions. Also along highways in the 100-mile border zone and in Tennessee.

        "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance..... He has affected to render the Military independent

      • I was flipping through the channels a couple nights ago and came across a Piers Morgan Tonight show (there was a guest host) with three or four women on the panel and they happen to be discussing airport security. And 3 of the 4 of them outright said, "But this is what is required to keep us safe, therefore I full support having to take my shoes off etc.."

        I sat there a bit taken back realizing that probably this really is the view that most people probably hold. I'm not sure why I expected any different.

        A

      • Many yes, but far too many feel that "If that's the price we have to pay for safety, then so be it".

        Not [utsandiego.com] as [vagabondish.com] many [smartmoney.com] as [huffingtonpost.com] people [forbes.com] think [boardingarea.com].

        It's all in how the survey question is stated. If you ask people "Do you support airport security?" you'll find overwhelming support. Obviously. Ask people if they support the TSA irradiating its citizens, "raping" them with invasive pat-downs -- whether they agree with those security procedures, and you'll get much lower response. It's like the IRS: Most people acknowledge they have to pay their taxes. Few agree with the collection tactics the IRS uses, or the lack of judicial

      • Perhaps someone should point out that anyone who can afford to charter a private jet gets to bypass security entirely, and can bring as much uninspected luggage with them as they can fit on the jet. Only the little people need to have their rights flagrantly denied by the government; important people (i.e. those who are wealthy) and terrorists (at least those who can afford the cost of chartering a private jet) get to bypass the process if they choose to do so.
    • Unfortunately, you don't speak for enough. Overall satisfaction rates with the TSA are near supermajority levels. The DHS and TSA aren't going away in spite of their overt orwellian qualities.

  • by jest3r (458429) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @01:57PM (#41325917)

    DHS = Department of Homeland Security
    FOIA = Freedom of Information Act
    PTSD = Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
    EPIC = The most overused word ever, next to fail. for even more asshole points, use them together to form "epic fail." (quoted from Urban Dictionary)

  • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @01:58PM (#41325923) Journal

    when your comments are completely ignored?

    • by jerpyro (926071) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:05PM (#41326005)

      What good is public comment when 90% of the country disagrees with you and thinks that the TSA is legitimate protection?

      Does our collective five-year-old psyche want its' security blanket? Yes.
      Unfortunate? Yes.
      Can we educate people that the TSA is an ineffective waste of money? No.
      We haven't even succeeded in teaching Kansas that Gorillas and Humans share a similar genealogical lineage.

      • gov should protect us and our rights from the ignorant masses...not pander to them.

        • by jerpyro (926071)

          While I agree with your premise, that's unfortunately not the way that modern US politics works.
          Most people get elected just like they did for junior high school class president -- "Let's have a soda machine in the cafeteria!!"

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:57PM (#41326487)

        Let's have two classes of airline - one with TSA fully funded from ticket fees and another that has no TSA and standard security. Let the market decide.

        • by jerpyro (926071)

          What you're suggesting is two classes of airlines, two sets of airport infrastructure, two sets of bureaucratic security policies, and the 90% being ok with the other class of airline flying over their country/buildings. I'm sure the ticket price for the unsecured airlines would be much more expensive because it would need to subsidize all of that additional infrastructure.

          "Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."

          • by sjames (1099)

            Nah, most airports can be divided up without that, and it's not like we're doubling the capacity. If you want TSA security, flights are leaving on concourse A and B, otherwise, C and D.

            As soon as the typical traveler sees the TSA surcharge, they'll likely be fine with 'non groping'.

        • by acoustix (123925)

          Let's have two classes of airline - one with TSA fully funded from ticket fees and another that has no TSA and standard security. Let the market decide.

          This! For the love of God, This!

        • That would not be enough. What about people who dont fly, and are afraid of planes falling from skies into their office buildings and apartments. We need to divide the country's airspace into two. One in which TSA vetted planes fly, and another in which unvetted planes fly. People are free to live under either of the airspace.

          PS: How many do you think will live under either of the airspaces?

      • by macbeth66 (204889)

        We haven't even succeeded in teaching Kansas that Gorillas and Humans share a similar genealogical lineage.

        They do? **gasp** If I were a gorilla, I would be incensed! Get your filthy hands off me! Dirty Human!

    • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:19PM (#41326143)

      It provides the illusion of legitimate democracy while actually effecting nothing, thus keeping the herd *quiet*

  • nice bias. (Score:4, Informative)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Thursday September 13, 2012 @01:58PM (#41325927) Homepage Journal

    " which they buried in their files"
    If by that you mean kept on hand to refer to latter in order to properly respond and maintain a history, then correct.

  • by Lucas123 (935744) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:00PM (#41325957) Homepage
    On one hand, I understand their ham handed approach to national security after 9/11. It was like a fire department flooding a property to make sure the fire was out. People had and will have good justification for ridiculing their blunt instrument approach to airport security -- especially the randomness of it all. On the other hand, we have intelligent people with experience enough to know that x-ray devices and bag searches only give the illusion of security. While on a much smaller scale, look at what the Israeli's do. A very well trained security person looks deeply into your eyes and questions you. That's it. That's all it takes to give the green light or send up a red flag. And, when was the last time you heard about a hijacking in Israel? Screening passengers by observation techniques can't be thwarted, while technological safeguards can always be overcome.
    • by redmid17 (1217076)
      Well yeah observation techniques can be thwarted in a pretty obvious way.... don't have any behavioral tells showing and you will get through. They have training for that sort of thing you know.
      • Well yeah observation techniques can be thwarted in a pretty obvious way.... don't have any behavioral tells showing and you will get through. They have training for that sort of thing you know.

        They have Xanax for that kind of thing, too.

      • by Lucas123 (935744) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:09PM (#41326043) Homepage
        It hasn't worked so far. By comparison, as you can see by the number of attempted airline bombings after 9/11 -- all thwarted by observant passengers -- and security test failures (journalists and security experts smuggling weapons past airport security) technology and pat downs have failed.
      • by tiberus (258517)

        And?!?

        If someone is going to put that level of time and effort into obtaining a goal, chances are they are going to beat any system. Invasive pat downs, luggage screening, limiting liquid volume etc. aren't going to thwart any but, the unprepared. A well trained screener has about the same chance to stop someone and is faster, friendlier and has no interest in touching my genitals.

        I cringe every time I hear someone say "well it's for our safety" or something to that effect.

        • by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:19PM (#41326139) Homepage

          They don't have to beat the TSA. They can blow themselves up in the queue for the scanner and have pretty much the same effect.

          • by TheCarp (96830)

            Or at the elementary school which looks like a much softer target all of a sudden. Or the mall... or a big rally...

            Thats really the problem with it... best case scenario, if everything the TSA does works flawlessly with no way to be exploited.... even if I could put my head into such a pure fantasyland

            Then their best case "win" scenario is exactly that, terrorist planners scratch airports off their target list, and move on to a different target, leaving the TSA to implement their perfect security for no rea

          • by steelfood (895457)

            Not much you can do about someone doing something stupid anywhere in the terminal. Airline security is more about preventing people from doing it 25000 feet in the air, where the chances of survival are practically nil. Targeted questioning by professional lie detectors is very effective in preventing this. X-ray machines, metal detectors, and body scanners/pat downs are not nearly as effective even as a deterrent.

            What the current TSA procedures absolutely don't prevent is hijackers taking the the plane and

    • by Qwertie (797303)
      I think I understand their approach to national security too: it helps increase the power of the federal government, it pleases the lobbyists that want the government to purchase billions of dollars worth of equipment from a particular manufacturer, and it distracts people from more important issues that the politicians would rather not discuss. When looking for motives, ask: who benefits? I wish people were not so foolish as to think that terrorist attacks can be stopped via airport security. Obviously th
    • On one hand, I understand their ham handed approach to national security after 9/11. It was like a fire department flooding a property to make sure the fire was out. People had and will have good justification for ridiculing their blunt instrument approach to airport security -- especially the randomness of it all. On the other hand, we have intelligent people with experience enough to know that x-ray devices and bag searches only give the illusion of security. While on a much smaller scale, look at what the Israeli's do. A very well trained security person looks deeply into your eyes and questions you. That's it. That's all it takes to give the green light or send up a red flag. And, when was the last time you heard about a hijacking in Israel? Screening passengers by observation techniques can't be thwarted, while technological safeguards can always be overcome.

      As a Jew and married to an Israeli, I have a lot of firsthand knowledge about flying thru Ben-Gurion airport, and I agree 100% with the comments about Israeli security. Unfortunately, in the US that kind of security is called "profiling", and objected to even though we - rightly or wrongly - profile EVERYONE we come into contact with: it is called "first impression". Personally I think it is fine to profile people as one tool, but NOT OK to use that to discriminate against them.

    • by rhizome (115711)

      What's your explanation for private companies running airline travel as a matter of national security? If the airlines can't keep bombs off their planes, then they go out of business and/or prosecuted for the actions of the terrorists they let through. How about life in prison for the entire board of directors of American Airlines?

  • Enhanced Pat Down (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bziman (223162) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:02PM (#41325975) Homepage Journal
    The last half dozen times I've flown, I managed to steer myself to a metal detector line, instead of an irradiating machine. A few weeks ago, though, they simply weren't using the old fashioned metal detectors, so I had my first "opportunity" to opt-out. I was really looking forward to being fondled and groped, but the TSA screeners were so uncomfortable, that they probably weren't able to determine definitively that I was male, much less if I were carrying something dangerous, like a comb or a camera. The dudes didn't want to touch me or look at me! While I was being not-fondled, one of the other TSA screeners unpacked and repacked my carry-on at least three times, and re-X-rayed it. I guess she was confused about why I would need two phone chargers (one for the wall, and one for the car). I mean, aside from that, there were two books and some napkins. Oh and a bottle of alcohol - but no one had any problem with that. I got the impression that she was just trying to punish me for daring to opt out. The guys just wanted to move on. It would have been cute, if the rules they were following didn't so blatantly violate good sense.
    • Re:Enhanced Pat Down (Score:4, Interesting)

      by xaxa (988988) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:15PM (#41326095)

      I've had the "pat down", which was far from it's name -- it's much closer to a "rub up". I didn't like it -- few people have rubbed their fingers around my scrotum, and I certainly wasn't expecting the TSA screener to when I "consented" to the search.

      However, not being an American, and being on my way out of the country, I had no choice.

      I didn't bother writing a letter. Should I? (Would a letter from a British person be ignored?) If so, where to?

      (In Europe, the most invasive search I've had is literally a "patting down" of clothing to look for concealed weapons, or else having the metal detecting wand waved over me. Although normally I walk straight through having not set off the metal detector.)

      • by guises (2423402)

        Should I? (Would a letter from a British person be ignored?) If so, where to?

        It's likely that all letters will be ignored, but it never hurts. If enough people write to make them believe it will cost tourism dollars it might make a difference, try the ambassador. You could also try your own government - part of the reason the US gets away with it is because other governments are going along with the whole theater experience, if the British government were to issue a travel warning against going to the United States it would get noticed at least. There have been other countries who h

      • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @03:01PM (#41326541) Homepage

        However, not being an American, and being on my way out of the country, I had no choice.

        Maybe not then, but you do now.

        My choice is not to visit the US. At the moment, their airport security there isn't something I'm willing to subject myself to.

        I've been lightly frisked elsewhere (politely, and not overly invasive), which is fine because I refuse to get into that scanner thing. But compared to what I've heard of the idiocy with TSA ... not happening.

        Ever since Alberto Gonzales said habeus corpus [wikipedia.org] isn't actually guaranteed, there's been a fairly obvious conclusion that pesky things like the US Constitution just get in the way. (How an Attorney General can have no idea how your laws work still baffles me.)

        And since now apparently there's a huge Constitution Free Zone [aclu.org] ... if it doesn't apply to citizens, I sure as hell don't want to be a foreign national.

        Sadly, 9/11 was when America jumped the shark in terms of her historical defense of rights.

    • by mr1911 (1942298)

      I was really looking forward to being fondled and groped, but the TSA screeners were so uncomfortable, that they probably weren't able to determine definitively that I was male, much less if I were carrying something dangerous, like a comb or a camera. The dudes didn't want to touch me or look at me!

      Yep, the best way to keep your pat down short is to look like you are enjoying it.

      • Yep, the best way to keep your pat down short is to look like you are enjoying it.

        This seems like a good opportunity for Viagra to reach a new market. "Viagra: make flying more enjoyable."

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      I was really looking forward to being fondled and groped, but the TSA screeners were so uncomfortable, that they probably weren't able to determine definitively that I was male, much less if I were carrying something dangerous, like a comb or a camera. The dudes didn't want to touch me or look at me!

      Exactly how gross are you?

  • by Qwertie (797303) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:11PM (#41326065) Homepage
    If a simple pat-down "induced PTSD and sexual abuse trauma", it is more likely to suggest a problem with the passenger rather than the TSA. Even so, America really can't afford billions of dollars in unnecessary equipment and personnel just to provide security theatre, especially since this particular theatre is not the slightest bit entertaining when it happens to you.

    And when you can get away with ignoring a court order, isn't that a symptom of a larger problem?
    • by mr1911 (1942298) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:21PM (#41326159)

      If a simple pat-down "induced PTSD and sexual abuse trauma", it is more likely to suggest a problem with the passenger rather than the TSA.

      So it is the passenger's fault they have issues being groped?

      Passengers that have been sexually abused have had issues with the TSA groping reviving trauma from the initial attack. That is kinda what PTSD does to a person.

      I know, I know, it is hard for anyone on Slashdot to imagine being the subject of unwanted sexual attention, but these things do happen.

      • by Smidge204 (605297)

        I'm just about as anti-TSA as someone can get, and I have to say that as awkward and unsettling as having a stranger shove their hand in your crotch? That should not cause trauma to any mentally healthy, well-adjusted individual. It is not any more sexual than having a doctor or nurse probe your junk (unless you're into that kind of thing I guess?) and it's not like you didn't know it was coming.

        Small children and people with existing traumas are something else, of course, but the TSA doesn't have any syste

        • by mr1911 (1942298) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:58PM (#41326511)
          You have obviously never been raped.

          it's not like you didn't know it was coming.

          Ahhh, the justification that makes everything the TSA does A-OK.

          • by Smidge204 (605297)

            You have obviously never been raped.

            "Small children and people with existing traumas are something else, of course"

            Ahhh, the justification that makes everything the TSA does A-OK.

            No, no it does not. The practice and the TSA at large are complete bullshit and not justifiable by any means that I can see. But it does not lead to trauma in an otherwise mentally healthy individual either.
            =Smidge=

        • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @03:09PM (#41326629)

          people with existing traumas are something else, of course, but the TSA doesn't have any systems to deal with that properly

          That's the case that people are talking about. And the TSA does have the system to deal with it properly. It's called respect our civil rights and don't search people without a warrant or probable cause.

        • by matrim99 (123693)

          That should not cause trauma to any mentally healthy, well-adjusted individual.

          Based on your statement, there is an implied assumption that only mentally healthy, well adjusted people should travel (or be allowed to travel). I do not think that this is what you intended to say.

    • What makes you think this was a "simple" pat-down? Do you think it's impossible that a minimum-wage screener with little to no training moving through that many people would ever misbehave?
    • Simple pat-downs have not been used for quite a while now. TSA now uses enhanced pat-downs.

  • Anxiety (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thereitis (2355426) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:13PM (#41326075) Journal
    I've never been groped by an agent, but I feel the anxiety of that and other abuses by the 'all powerful' every time I fly. So far it's just a terrible possibility in my mind and has never happened, but living under that fear should not be a necessity of a reasonably safe flying experience.
    • Re:Anxiety (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Smidge204 (605297) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:57PM (#41326485) Journal

      but living under that fear should not be a necessity of a reasonably safe flying experience

      There is no evidence at all that you are any safer. In fact the TSA has failed to detect smuggled banned objects in every official test, several unofficial tests, and several anecdotal accounts that I'm aware of - and there have been numerous publications on how the various methods they use are easily fooled and/or don't detect the proper types of materials.

      You are living in fear and you're not even safer for your trouble.
      =Smidge=

  • by BMOC (2478408) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:14PM (#41326085)
    ...over federal power. If you give the federal government too much power, they do things like this. They are simply not equipped (due mostly to incompetence) to deal with the concerns of it's citizens like local government is, and they should only exist to settle disputes between states and provide for the common defense and law. But when you put them in charge of things like this, you are guaranteed to get problems. The DHS is literally the poster child for why you should never ever ever give your executive branch in a representative republic more power than you would give your local mayor.
    • ...over federal power. If you give the federal government too much power, they do things like this. They are simply not equipped (due mostly to incompetence) to deal with the concerns of it's citizens like local government is, and they should only exist to settle disputes between states and provide for the common defense and law. But when you put them in charge of things like this, you are guaranteed to get problems. The DHS is literally the poster child for why you should never ever ever give your executive branch in a representative republic more power than you would give your local mayor.

      I don't see how giving regions, states, or municipalities this kind of responsibility or authority rather than the federal government is a solution to this sort of problem. Government at any level can be abusive and unresponsive. I read just yesterday in the local paper that the citizens of a nearby suburb are complaining that their city council is out of touch with the residents over a zoning change they made without addressing the neighbors' concerns. This is a city of 185 people. The peoples' recourse?

      • by Cormacus (976625) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:51PM (#41326435) Homepage
        Well their secondary recourse, in a town of 185 people, is to leave. This kind of voting with your feet is why pushing governmental functions down to the lowest (read: most local) level is a good thing. The feedback loop is tightest there. If the city government in a small city is out of touch and not listening, the final stage in the feedback loop is for the residents to up and leave for the next town over. The larger the area covered by that government, the more difficult it is to do that.
        • by Urza9814 (883915)

          Yes. and if you talk to your local mayor, your local chief of police, your local council members...you'll get an actual response. At least I always have. Shit you send them an email and you get a clear, concise answer to exactly the issue you asked or complained about.

          Try getting that from a anyone in the federal government. Sure, you can go talk to them. I've talked to my state senator many times. Last time he told me 'yes, I'm definitely going to vote against this bill, it's a solution in search of a prob

  • communists won (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan667 (564390) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @02:48PM (#41326405)
    remember with the US use to make fun of communists for their "show me your papers" paranoia? tsa is UnAmerican.
  • The Great Depression had the WPA, and the Great Recession has the TSA.

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