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Government Privacy Security Transportation

US Changes How Air Travelers Are Screened 260

Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration is abandoning its policy of using nationality alone to determine which US-bound international air travelers should be subject to additional screening and will instead select passengers based on possible matches to intelligence information, including physical descriptions or a particular travel pattern. Under the new system, screeners will stop passengers for additional security if they match certain pieces of known intelligence. The system will be 'much more intel-based,' a senior administration official says, as opposed to brute force. For example if US intelligence authorities learned about a terrorism suspect from Asia who had recently traveled to the Middle East, and they knew the suspect's approximate age but not name or passport number, those fragments would be entered into a database, shared with commercial airline screeners abroad, and screeners would be instructed to look for people with those traits and to pull them aside for extra searches. Administration officials have said that, in hindsight, the central failure in the attempted bombing of an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight on Christmas Day involved inadequate sharing of information." In other TSA-related news, CNN takes a look at the full-body scanners that are beginning to be deployed in the US and elsewhere, concluding that they are good at finding concealed drugs but haven't found much that could bring down an airplane. John Perry Barlow is quoted: "Every time technology makes another leap forward, we have to reclaim the Fourth Amendment, and often we have to reclaim the entire Bill of Rights, because technology gives [the authorities] powers that were not envisioned by the Founding Fathers."
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US Changes How Air Travelers Are Screened

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  • Drug cases (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Icepick_ ( 25751 ) <> on Friday April 02, 2010 @11:32AM (#31706766) Homepage

    I wonder how the cases where drugs were found and reported to law enforcement will pan out.

    Does consenting to a TSA screening also mean you're consenting to a search? I'm certain someone will attempt to try the unreasonable search and seizure/warrentless search defense.

    This troubles me.

  • Re:Oh man (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @11:39AM (#31706852) Homepage Journal

    The freedoms cost as much as you are going to sacrifice for it. Sacrifice means that you sacrifice something personal for communal good. That act of selflessness is largely incompatible with individualistic basis of American culture.

    There are less and less freedoms because there are less and less people who are ready to get serious about getting less and less freedoms. Western culture "ends with a wimper" indeed.

  • by NoPantsJim ( 1149003 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @11:41AM (#31706864) Homepage
    Dennis Miller once said:

    "Noticing that 16 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia isn't being racist, it's being minimally observant."
  • FDA approval (Score:4, Interesting)

    by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @11:42AM (#31706870) Journal

    So are these new terahertz scanners FDA approved? FDA has guidelines and limits for any radiation exposure events.

  • by Chonnawonga ( 1025364 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @11:57AM (#31707040)

    The system is broken: even the experts realize that. Should we be playing with the algorithm, or throwing the whole system out?

    If racial profiling doesn't work, what do we do next? Do we keep going with the security theatre, building a divide between "us" and "them", or do we start attacking the causes of terrorism rather than pretending we can do anything about the effects?

  • **SSSSSSSSS** (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:03PM (#31707090)

    Am i the only "european, single male in their 30es" who frequently travels on one-way (business class) tickets?

    Despite my Airline PLATINUM standard (>100,000 miles/yr), in the past i have had frequently a series of SSSSSSS printed on my boarding pass, which was a sure fire 100% way to get pulled over EVERY SINGLE TIME for a "random" search in the security line.

    After a while i just "volunteered" and asked "so, where's the sssspecial line" ?
    i got a weird look, showed my boarding pass, and then the usual "oh, sir, you've gotta come with me, you've been randomly selected for additional security screening".

    I tried to explain to the folks that they need to smarten up, because if they basically tell me at check-in that i'm the "chosen one" when going through security, i would of course have dumped anything which would be "suspicious" to my friends (with non-SSSS boarding passes).

    Unfortunately my honest concerns (and ramblings about randomness and predictability) were usually met by the TSA drones with the famous lack of understanding and common sense.

    I'm glad that MAYBE they are actually doing something reasonable, instead of the "security theater" of the last 10 yrs. but then again.... what am i thinking!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:04PM (#31707106)
    Did you notice that we invaded two other Arab countries and not Saudi Arabia?
  • by diamondmagic ( 877411 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:09PM (#31707158) Homepage

    Every time technology makes another leap forward, we have to reclaim the Fourth Amendment, and often we have to reclaim the entire Bill of Rights, because technology gives [the authorities] powers that were not envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

    ...Or we could just make the airlines responsible for their own security, then they could decide whether they want the scanners and what types of searches to preform, without running into constitutional issues that the government has.

  • by amplt1337 ( 707922 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:13PM (#31707222) Journal

    9/10/01 called, it wants its society back.

    (...of course, for that matter, so do I. Sigh.)

  • Re:**SSSSSSSSS** (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @02:25PM (#31708634) Homepage Journal
    It is the security theatre that bothers me. For instance, last time I traveled my outbound trip was reasonable, as it always is. For some reason my home airport is rational. I was swiped for explosives, appropriately provoked, so to test for stress, and then cleared.

    The return trip was pure security theatre. I carry my electronics on the plane so that no one has to search my checked bag. The TSA person made some sarcastic comment about what I was carrying, but did not really push beyond that. I did not have to explain myself at all. The reason we have TSA people, presumably, is so they have face tot face contact with the passengers and have a conversation to see if everything is kosher, not to create false positives by being sarcastic.

    The it was to the body scanner. Evidently one has to hold perfectly still. In other words, if a terrorist wiggles, then the scanner is worthless. I went through twice, they could not tell anything because I have a hard time holding still, and so I had to be searched. The search would not have discovered an underwear device. BTW, the scanner requires much more time to get through than the metal detector, so one needs to increase the lead time from 30 minutes to 2 hours. All in all a useless machine only suited to perverts

    As it is TSA is just a jobs program, not that I think that is a bad thing. I have respect for those people going to work everyday and doing what they can. In the US a reals day work now seems to be optional. For instance they could be organizing and attending tea parties while the rest of us working people pays their unemployment and disability benefits. But, if we are to have the TSA, we should fund it to a level that they can be well trained and genuinely effective.

  • Re:**SSSSSSSSS** (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gogo0 ( 877020 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @04:01PM (#31709454)

    Single 27yr-old attractive white male from Alaska (that makes me REALLY white!) here.i have a closely-trimmed beard, nice haircut, nice clothes, and always smile and be very polite with the security folks that deal with me (last thing i want is to piss one of THEM off!).
    i get searched EVERY time, even on return-trip tickets.
    i either check a large backpack with no carry-ons or take the backpack as a carryon with no checked luggage and i get searched either way.

    i must fit SOME profile to be searched so frequently. i cant imagine what, but it doesnt matter too much. i know the drill and its over quickly (two minutes or so), and in japan they dont bother finding a male 'pat-downer' and the security girls reach down the front of my pants to check the zipper or something. maybe thats why i dont complain.

    i was leaving seattle for a business trip (with US Army ORDERS, Army ID, etc) a few months back and my business laptop (US Army tagged) was 'suspect.' the girl doing the swabs and questioning was so disinterested in what she was doing that its possible she was asleep the whole time. i also got searched.

    i think the problem most people have with the TSA and their screening process are the agents like in my anecdote above. its obvious they dont give a shit, they do a visibly poor job, and in the end its a farce and everyone knows it.

Loose bits sink chips.