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Defending The Skies Against Congress And The Elderly 1230

theodp writes "After watching a burly airport screener search her lymphoma-stricken father, forcing the frail and faltering 78-year-old to hand over his oxygen meter, stand at attention with arms spread for a wand search, take off the Velcro strap shoes that he'd struggled to put on, and strain to keep his balance as his belt was tugged repeatedly, a Newsweek columnist wonders: have we lost our common sense when it comes to passenger screening?" An anonymous reader writes "CNN reported that Kennedy wasn't alone in being listed in the airport watch list as reported in a Slashdot article. Rep. John Lewis, D - Georgia, a nine-term congressman, has been stopped many times because his name appeared on an airline watch list as told to Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on border security. He contacted the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security and executives at various airlines in an effort to get his name off the list, but failed. Instead, he received a letter from the TSA indicating he has cleared an identity check with the agency even though he might still be subject to extra security checks."
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Defending The Skies Against Congress And The Elderly

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  • Security? (Score:5, Funny)

    by MasterSLATE ( 638125 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:32PM (#10040084) Homepage Journal
    Airport security has gotten worse and worse. What next, peopel without arms and legs cant get on planes? Oh wait, that already happened.
    • Re:Security? (Score:5, Informative)

      by MasterSLATE ( 638125 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:34PM (#10040106) Homepage Journal
      Here's a link

      linky link []
      • by Hanzie ( 16075 ) * on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:09PM (#10040343)
        Blockquoted from parent linked article:
        After Price had checked her luggage, she alleged that she was stopped by an Air France agent who told her that "a head, one bottom and a torso cannot possibly fly on its own."

        Well, in one sense, it is quite true, since if she could fly on her own, she wouldn't need Air France in the first place. However, since she was denied transportation only after her luggage was checked, it would appear that she could manage other forms of transport on her own.

        I would hazard a guess that Air France is currently contemplating dropping off that particular employee mid-flight to allow him to demonstrate his particular ability to fly on his own using his arms and legs.

        I'm certain that this would more than satisfy the poor woman who was so shabbily treated by Air France.

    • Re:Security? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TPS Report ( 632684 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:53PM (#10040228) Homepage
      If the US Government can't even decide to clear their own Senators for air travel, I sympathize with anyone who has anything negative to say about the government. "I realise that you're a senator, privvy to confidential information, on the board of various committees, but I'm just not sure if I can trust you to get on an airplane."

      This is due to intentional malice, disorganization, stupidity, or any combination of the above. You'd think, though, at the very least - they'd remember to clear at least some of their more influential employees. I guess not.

      Then again, it's all too often that those in power selectively choose which laws they are subject to, or get special treatment -- so it's refreshing to see some of them inconvenienced by the same laws they thought were good enough to create.
      • by Cliffy03 ( 663924 ) <thecanadiangeek@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:22PM (#10040426)
        I sympathize with anyone who has anything negative to say about the government.
        Note to Michael Moore:

        Don't bother flying.
      • Re:Security? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TWX ( 665546 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @09:07PM (#10040692)
        The way for the system to be changed is for more and more elected Government officials to end up on this list. Break the system for them and they'll be forced to address the problems, and more than just "please remove me from your list" is obviously not enough.
        • Re:Security? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by realdpk ( 116490 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @09:35PM (#10040818) Homepage Journal
          I'm not convinced that would be enough. They have the resources to turn to private jets and stuff. I say we get their staff on the list. Someone that's important to them, but not important enough that they'd pay to charter rates to fly 'em around.
        • by GooseKirk ( 60689 ) <goosekirk AT hotmail DOT com> on Monday August 23, 2004 @03:19AM (#10042241) Homepage
          Or break the system for everybody. I sent an email to the TSA asking to please be put ON the list. I justified it because although I have a full-time job and generally have shit to do, I sympathize with leftists and protesters and peace activists. So even though I may not be doing any protesting or other such nefarious activities, I'm inclined to think they're OK, and it seems to me like that oughta be enough to get me on the watch list. I also told them that I have many friends who feel the same way, but I wasn't sure if it was my patriotic duty to give them their names, or if that'd be unamerican, and to please advise. I never heard back, but I continue to be allowed to board airplanes.

          It also doesn't seem to work if you volunteer for the extra-special screening search. I always enjoy those. Some people get annoyed, but I just see it as an opportunity to annoy them. There is a legitimate argument that the screeners themselves are just doing their job, and it's a lousy job to have, and so on, so you shouldn't annoy them. But I figure the more we can annoy them, the more they're going to bitch amongst themselves, and hopefully over time the gripes will flow up the ladder to the decision-makers.

          I'd really like to see more and more people added to these lists and subjected to the extra-moronic searches, and more people being annoying. Hopefully at some point the system would start to break down, and people would demand something better.
      • Re:Security? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Nikker ( 749551 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @10:08PM (#10041001)

        How about if they are doing this to Edward Kennedy et al on purpose. So far the US has asked us for their trust and if Mr. Kennedy is a suspected terrorist and under review will not be given a clean slate in terms of flying on an airplane then should he be holding office?

        Why is it that they are not arresting any of the people that they flag as terrorists (or likely to be)?

        They are swinging a big stick and pointing it all around but not 'doing' anything rather than threatening to use it again.

        If they want all of this trust, patients and understanding why don't they ever accomplish anything other than moving the 'terrorist alert' level?

        With all this intelligence and lists they have compliled why have they not made any arrests? Its been 3 years (almost) now but the same thing over and over again, "if you dont do what we say you will die at the hands of some religious freak".

        I don't know about you but if I had a list of bad people that were gonna do bad things I would do a little more than wait for them to get on a plane to just ask them questions and waste their time, then of course let them go on thier marry way.

        Common Bush give us some reason to buy your bullshit it can't be that hard you have a lot of intelligent people working for you just give em more tax payer money, because in my opinion you are the worst terrorist of them all

        my $0.02 take it or leave it
      • Re:Security? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @10:47PM (#10041248)
        "If the US Government can't even decide to clear their own Senators for air travel,"

        Have you seen the US Senate lately? It seems the only think keeping half of them out of prison are constitutional priveleges against arrest!
      • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @10:57PM (#10041301)
        If the US Government can't even decide to clear their own Senators for air travel, I sympathize with anyone who has anything negative to say about the government. "I realise that you're a senator, privvy to confidential information, on the board of various committees, but I'm just not sure if I can trust you to get on an airplane."

        Well, in fairness to the TSA, Sen Kenendy may have tried to drive home after leaving Logan.

    • Re:Security? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by morcego ( 260031 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:58PM (#10040260)
      I have to wonder if this is not a more important victory for the terrorists than 9/11 itself.
      Isn't that what they always dreamed of, making american lives a real pain ? Destroying the "American Way of Life" and all that ? Making american citizens misable ?

      I have to say that they were very successful. With a lot of help from USA government.
      • Re:Security? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:16PM (#10040397) Homepage
        With a lot of help from USA government.

        While I agree with you that the terrorists are winning, I would like to point out that a lot of Americans are quite in favour of the U.S. government doing this in the name of protecting them. Since these are the voters, they will keep electing a government that says they can protect them from terrorism. Unfortunately, nobody can really be protected from terrorism, but most people can't accept that.
        • Re:Security? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by femto ( 459605 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:30PM (#10040482) Homepage
          The perfect crime is the one that noone even knows has happened. Is the perfect war victory the one that a country inflicts on itself?
        • Re:Security? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by eidechse ( 472174 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:09PM (#10041366)
          Which is exactly why we (the United States) had (initially) a democratic republic as opposed to a pure democracy. Some/most U.S. citizens are:

          stupid/ignorant/evil/jerk-offs/small-minded/"can 't think for themselves"/un-informed.

          Just because they are citizens does not mean that they should be allowed to make policy. Viz, just because they happen to be human doesn't mean their opinion is useful, important, or valuable.
      • Re:Security? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:25PM (#10040449)
        You just got it over all wrong. Osama didn't want to destroy American Life. His sole intention was:
        1. So that American Troops will get out from Saudi Arabia, since for him, it is a sacred land.
        2. Stop backing off Israel in term of every military movement they do against Palestine people.

        Now what is the difficulty in at least taking the troops from Saudi Arabia??
        Just so that Saddam won't attack Saudi Arabia? Nah. If Saddam ever did that at that time, it only takes several hours for several F-16 and B2 to go to Iraq and kick his butt. Or so that Saudi Arabia won't stop their oil production, so that there won't be any oil crisis like in the 80s? If that's the case, it is much better to reassign the budget for the troops that stay in Saudi Arabia for production of new fuel and new engine that doesn't use any fossil fuel, eg: bio diesel.

        Unless the American's start looking themselves at the mirror, the Islamic people will always hate us.
    • Re:Security? (Score:5, Informative)

      by agraupe ( 769778 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:23PM (#10040430) Journal
      Actually, I have heard that this was done due to safety concerns, as the airlines have the right to refuse service to anyone who would be "unable to aid in their own evacuation from the aircraft". This would be stated in the Terms of Carriage (a document that no one reads, much like a EULA). This is a safety issue, and although it may seem insensitive, there is a clear and good reason for it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:33PM (#10040095)
    Terrorists would be stupid to try to hijack planes again. It was a tactic they could use once, and they did, and now the rules have changed. It used to be the case if someone hijacked a plane, they wanted to make a statement or go somewhere, and you'd probably live if you cooperated. Now we know they want to use them to hit other things and kill people. If someone hijacks your plane now, you're going to fight back. You're dead if you don't, but you have a chance of surviving if you do.

    That's not to say we shouldn't screen for bombs and such. We should. They could still try to bomb planes. But I'd like to see more screening of pilots, and more attention paid to other possible forms of attack.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:49PM (#10040200)
      Heheh, as far as USA is concerned, the terrorists don't need to do anything right now. The Americans are doing a great job of terrorizing themselves, living in constant fear of being bombed and hijacked, putting each other on lists, watching and tracking each other... Just look, there is hardly a single article on /. where someone doesn't bring up the terrorists. All this fear and terror for free, whee!
    • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:51PM (#10040213)
      I can see fixing the security on planes (mostly by fixing the door so no one can get to the pilots).

      But you're right. Any terrorist would have to be an idiot to try that again right now. If nothing else, the passengers would fight back this time.

      This isn't about making anything "safer". This is about providing the ILLUSION that we are "safer" now because we are "taking these steps".

      But illusions are not reality. Rep. John Lewis used to be tagged by the "security" issue. But he can bypass that if he registers as John R. Lewis. Which tells you how reliable that "security" measure is.

      The "security" we've put in place is whatever is easiest for the "security" people to do. And that results in the stupid incidents we keep reading about.
      • by camusflage ( 65105 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:47PM (#10040581)
        This is about providing the ILLUSION that we are "safer" now because we are "taking these steps".

        This is what Bruce Schnier refers to as "Security Theater"; that is to say, things which while they look impressive do little to nothing to actually improve security.

        Consider the "in depth" searches. In most airports, those folks who are randomly selected have a mark placed on their boarding pass. Kind of defeats the purpose of randomly searching folks if they know they're going to be searched, no?
      • by deverox ( 177930 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @09:15PM (#10040725)
        This isn't about making anything "safer". This is about providing the ILLUSION that we are "safer" now because we are "taking these steps".

        After all this "security" stuff was enacted their were polls that asked how "secure" people felt. One company did the poll and it said 70 some % of people felt safer now. Then they added another question "have you flown on an airplane since 9/11?" After factoring in that answer it was 7% of people who have flown since 9/11 felt safer, where as the vast majority of people who hadn't flown felt safer. It was over 90 some %.

        So now we have the most annoying security in the world at our airports that makes people who don't fly feel safe!

        Arn't we glad we are making our lives a pain in the ass!!!
      • by fbg111 ( 529550 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @09:28PM (#10040788)
        If nothing else, the passengers would fight back this time.

        What do you mean, "this time"? They fought back the first time, as soon as they knew what was happening.
    • by jcr ( 53032 ) <> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:14PM (#10040386) Journal
      You're correct that there will never be another successful hijacking, as the passengers who died in Pennsylvania demonstrated on 9/11. The purpose of the TSA and the entire cabinet-level department of pretense and hand-waving was to head off the *real* danger as perceived by the government, which is that we might all realize that our safety can NOT be assured by leaving it in the hands of the people who brought us Amtrak and the Post Office.

      Terrorism is a very diffuse threat, and the only practical response is that which Israelis practice every day: many, many citizens carry weapons, and when you hear about a terrorist attack in israel, you usually will hear that the perp killed two or three people before getting shot by passers-by.

      • by Ralph Wiggam ( 22354 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @10:39PM (#10041212) Homepage
        I was in Israel a few years ago. I was in a market two days after it had been bombed and the place was full. They don't live in fear the way we do. Tons of random people carrying uzis isn't what makes them secure. By law, every public building has a security gaurd in front. That's a huge step from where we are now.

        The post office is the best deal in the world. What else can you get for 40 cents? Neither Amtrak or the USPS is a government agency.

  • Terrorists won (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:33PM (#10040096)
    I haven't got on an international flight for around a year and a half now just because it's such a fucking hassle these days it's just not worth it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:33PM (#10040099)
    Congress and old people do far more damage to this society (and me personally) than any "real" terrorists. This all sounds fine to me. *shrug*.

    The terrorists aren't going around telling us "we're the greatest generation" all while bilking my generation out of enormous quantities of cash via taxes to give them free medical care, free prescriptions, social security, etc. And Congress... well... that one is obvious.
  • Yehaw! (Score:4, Funny)

    by BluRBD!E ( 627484 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:34PM (#10040103)
    In Soviet America, the system shits on you! ... oh wait...
  • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:35PM (#10040108)
    Didn't I just read last week in the slashdot story about Kennedy's problems [] that the extra screening line is "where all the people with dark skin or funny clothes go"? []

    Every time this sort of thing comes up, someone says that it's all the people with "brown skin" who get targetted, but then they cry fowl when the TSA seems to make an attempt to fairly apply their searches.

    So which is it? The brownskins? The US senators? Elderly men? People with "funny clothes"?

    As an aside, I'll agree, to a point, that this type of security largely does nothing more than provide a false sense of the very same. But if a "false sense" of security, as it were, is what it takes to make ordinary Americans travel by air, instead of cowering in their homes (as many did after 9/11), isn't it fulfilling its its goal? The goal may not be security, per se, but simply preventing the entire US air transportation industry from collapsing onto itself (issues of privacy and anonymous air travel [] aside, for the moment).

    You're right: we can't stop "terror" or terrorist attacks, almost by definition. But we can do our best to make people feel like they're being protected, and the people whose job it is to protect the public can do their best jobs trying. Simple as it may sound. (And no, I don't mean a police state or "Papers, please". I mean honest people, at many levels, legitimately trying to do their best to protect others. There's nothing wrong with legitimately good airport and airline security, for example...not saying everything the TSA does is perfect.)
  • The other side? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by brandonY ( 575282 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:36PM (#10040114)
    An elderly man with medical devices that include metal components would make an excellent suicide bomber. The metal components of his bomb? "Oh, that's my pacemaker/air filter/cancer thingamajig." Bomb dog smells something? "Oh, I take these tablets of such and such for my heart." He's not suspicious in the least no matter how suspicious he's acting. Plus, he doesn't have much time and wouldn't mind as much giving up his life for some radical cause. Keep up the good work, men!
    • Actors (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GuyMannDude ( 574364 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:44PM (#10040158) Journal

      Good point. Y'know, there are people called "actors" who are trained to give convincing performances of people whom they are not. Just because someone looks old and frail, how do we really know? You remember how convincing Patrick Stewart was at playing a bumbling old Jean-Luc Picard in "All Good Things..."? A little bit of makeup and several months practicing and I bet you could get a normally young, healthy person to look and act very much like an elderly man. At least well enough for an overworked security screener who's been dealing with huge crowds all day long. Like brandon said, he's already got a built-in excuse for setting the metal detector off.


    • Re:The other side? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:09PM (#10040345) Homepage Journal
      Look, I've got nothing against old people and Ted Kennedy, but there is nothing intrinsically wrong with searching them. Random searches will only work if they are, well, random. As soon as you define a criterion, you define a loophole. That's OK if the criteria are actually relevant: This guy is carrying three bricks of C4; let's not let him on the plane. It's a disaster when the criteria are in fact orthogonal to the behavior you fear: This guy is Middle Eastern -- he must be stopped. This woman is WASP -- she must be OK.

      Why else do you think "Al-Qaida said to recruit in Latin America" []? Getting recruits who don't "fit the mold" would be a coup, especially if we fall victim to a profiling mentality.
    • Re:The other side? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by outsider007 ( 115534 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:21PM (#10040420)
      Except that you don't make to 78 by having suicidal tendencies. At that age a radical cause is getting the lime jello off the menu.

      But I'll go out on a limb and say that yes we should pat the old people down once in a while. Just to stir things up. You know these are the people that are making most of the stink about security. What, you want us to just frisk people who don't look like you? Nice try, pops.
  • Pilots, too... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kiwibee ( 806835 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:38PM (#10040124)
    I think it's really dumb that pilots are frequently stopped. My dad is a pilot, and sometimes he flies one way trips on other airlines. He has to do that in order to get to whereever the company plane is so that he can fly it. People with one way tickets frequently come up on security lists, so my dad and other pilots are searched very often. Shouldn't the pilots not have to put up with this? As much as he flies one way, it really annoys my dad...We need a separate system to deal with pilots and flight attendants.
  • Logic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Threni ( 635302 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:38PM (#10040127)
    After watching a burly airport screener search her lymphoma-stricken father, forcing the frail and faltering 78-year-old to hand over his oxygen meter, stand at attention with arms spread for a wand search, take off the Velcro strap shoes that he'd struggled to put on, and strain to keep his balance as his belt was tugged repeatedly, a Newsweek columnist wonders: have we lost our common sense when it comes to passenger screening?

    If you're suggesting that there's any age, sex, race, religious disposition, disability etc that procludes someone from being a terrorist trying to get onto a plane then I'd like to see your evidence.
    What would you say to the metaphorical parent of a victim of that terrorists acts when they said to you `why did you assume a guy in a wheelchair was not carrying a bomb`?
    • Re:Logic (Score:5, Insightful)

      by doublebackslash ( 702979 ) <> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:57PM (#10040257)
      There was more to it than that, the article ended with a comment on how we should at lest treat people as human beings. I think that would be fair. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty in this country for a reason: everyone deserves to be treated the same. You start to judge people in any way (including being disrespectful) you have taken a piece of their freedom.
      There is no perfect system, but there needs to be a bit more common sense in it all. For example: Did the guy need to almost yank her father over when he examnined his belt? Could he have asked real quick, or said "Can I see your belt buckle?".
      Just RTFA real quick (its not that long) and says what I think needs saying: "This system is insane, lets tweak it."
  • Easily fooled (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quixote ( 154172 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:38PM (#10040128) Homepage Journal
    The worst part about the Lewis story is how he managed to get around it: by using a middle initial! He switched from "John Lewis" to "John R Lewis", and presto! No more problems!

    If the system is so friggin' easy to fool, just why is it being used??

    I can only shake my head and wonder. It is not that I'm upset about a few people being harassed; what bothers me is that this is such a lame measure, which is easily fooled, and yet there are people who think it is useful. It is the presence of such people in decision-making roles is what really bothers me. If these people can't even see the problems with this system, are we expected to put faith in their abilities to spot real problems and design real solutions???

    • Re:Easily fooled (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mdfst13 ( 664665 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:06PM (#10040314)
      "If the system is so friggin' easy to fool,"

      Fool? Is his middle initial really R? If so, how is that "fooling" the system? If they are looking for John Q Lewis and he is John R Lewis, then using his middle initial is just adding enough information to allow the system to work. I would be more worried if his name was John Q Lewis and he used John R Lewis, but according to the R is his actual middle initial.

      The real problem seems to be that the name is common and there is a John Lewis (with whatever middle initial) who is on the no-fly list. This is one of the few parts of the system that actually seem to relate to 9/11. Those people *were* on the watch lists, but they were allowed to fly anyway. This just offers a method to keep people like the hijackers off the plane.
  • by Dolphinzilla ( 199489 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:44PM (#10040160) Journal
    I just returned from a trip to the Middle East via commercial airlines - I was seached more times than I can recall, and I must have shown my passport to at least a dozen folks - the really stupid thing is that the people checking the passports are just going through the motions anyway - not one person actually compared the passport photo to my own face (which is an older photo and I had a beard then). I think that the collective airline security is in a ridiculous state - I doubt they could actually catch someone trying to do wrong without prior knowledge.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:45PM (#10040162)
    After watching a burly airport screener search her lymphoma-stricken father,--8<--8<-- a Newsweek columnist wonders: --8<--"

    And I wonder: why does it take a relative of this Newsweek columnist being hassled for said columnist to write a column about this? the TSA and its secret black lists, and the circus show that goes on in airports across the country, bringing nothing but the sense of security, aren't these enough to call this journalist's attention?

    But no, apparently it's business as usual for reporters these days, unless what goes on in America *right now* affects them personally. If the Washington Post and other news outlets behaved 30 years ago like they do today, Nixon would have stayed in office until the end of his term.
  • by deanj ( 519759 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:47PM (#10040175)
    There are a couple of problems here.

    First, the TSA people on the ground have to use some freaking common sense. It kind of disturbs me that the people on the ground can't recognize someone like Kennedy. On the news yesterday, they said some other bozo has been using "Edward Kennedy" as an alias. I can see some lesser known people being stopped, but seriously... who hasn't seen Kennedy?

    These people are stopping senators and grandmas, and letting people through that probably should be stopped, all in the name of "political correctness". If a guy is acting shifty and has a foreign passport, chances are the guy is just nervous about being in a foreign country's airport security, so ask the guy a couple of questions... not my grandma.

    Second, these congress people have start getting to the airport AHEAD OF TIME, just like the rest of us. They pull up five minutes before flights, and expect to cruise right on through.

    Maybe if they start getting delayed more, they'll authorize more money to lower the waiting times at airports.
  • by maxpublic ( 450413 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:51PM (#10040214) Homepage
    The biggest deterrent to air terrorism has already taken place: 9/11. If a terrorist attempts to take over a plane now everyone is going to remember what happened to the Twin Towers and to the people on board those planes, and no matter what the terrorists say they're going to believe that they're the next barbecue up on the list.

    I'd wager that any terrorist takeover attempt will last a few minutes at most, before the news travels the cabin and several hundred passengers mob the sons of bitches and do unto them before they can be done unto.

    The 9/11 terrorists did more for airline security than the government ever could, or can: by forcing the passengers to realize that if *they* don't end the threat then death will almost certainly follow.

  • by MsWillow ( 17812 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:52PM (#10040218) Homepage Journal
    I haven't seen my mother in well over ten years. She lives in Dayton, Ohio, and I live in Seattle, Washington. I'd love to see her at least once more, before she finally kicks the bucket, but ...

    See, I'm disabled. I'm stuck in a wheelchair. At the moment, I can still stand by myself, for short periods, I can even put my shoes on (Velcro is my bestest friend), I cannot, however, spend multiple hours waiting in line to be screened - MS has left my bladder very functional, but taken away my ability to sense "fullness" (and no, the drug that's advertised will not help. Tried that. Nada).

    So, flying is out. Greyhound is even worse - those toilets are *not* very handicapped accessible. Amtrack? They keep cutting off routes because Congress won't give them adequate funding for anything but the East coast corridor. Driving? Ha! Got no vehicle that can carry my power chair, and I for sure can't drive myself any more.

    So I'm stuck here in Seattle, likely until I die. Thank you, TSA, and your over-zealous "screeners" who really can't stop a determined terrorist (or even a half-determined amateur who wants to demonstrate gow ludicrous the "Homeland Security" really is).

    Bah. A pox on all their houses.
    • by shadowbearer ( 554144 ) * on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:49PM (#10040590) Homepage Journal
      I don't have an easy answer for you, but my SO (who works with disabled people) suggests contacting the NOD [] who might be able to direct you to someone who can help you out.

      At the least they might be able to put you in contact with disabled people who travel and might be willing to help out with a ride.

      We live in an area with a high number of tourists, and there are a lot of them who are disabled and on the road and would no doubt be very willing to give whatever help they could.

      Definitely agree with you wrt to the bus and train system, even for non-disabled they have become, to a fair amount, useless. I won't comment on the flying situation except to say it's unlikely I'll ever fly, being more than somewhat agoraphobic (def. wrt to crowds).

      Given what airports and airplanes are like, it wasn't that easy for a disabled person to travel that way even before 9/11. Neither of us know for sure, but we both can't believe there isn't *someone* out there who can help. There are a a couple disabled internet gurus I know, who travel quite a bit, and who I will inquire of; if I find out anything from them I'll respond here.

      Another person I know locally and just called suggested finding someone to escort you and deal with the airport authorities ahead of time and during the security checks. She's not sure as to how effective it would be, but she used to provide escort services at JFK so she at least knows (or used to, as she said :) how it works.

      Keep on looking and good luck.

  • by Whammy666 ( 589169 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:01PM (#10040282) Homepage
    What could possibly go wrong with a secret system that tags people as potential terrorists that is not subject to any oversight, accountable to no one, and has no provisions for challenging a wrongful inclusion?

    The disturbing thing is that for reasons that remain unexplained, people opposed to Bush's policies seem to get added quite readily. Combine this with Ashcroft's recent defense of using FBI resources to investigate (aka harass) Bush protestors and it's not hard to imagine how such a system could and probably is being abused.

  • by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:03PM (#10040296) Journal
    As well as biometric passports, and biometric scanning until those are available, all visitors to the US from every countryhave to have their own passports regardless of their age.

    So, whereas in the past, a family of British tourists to the US would have a couple of adult passports and one or two for the older kids, with the younger kids and the new baby travelling on one of their parent's passports, they now have to all have their own individual passports and all be photographed and fingerprinted on entry.

    Now can someone please tell me how requiring babies to have their own passports adds to the security of the US? All this is doing (together with the treating visitors to the US like criminals before they've even set foot on US soil) is giving people every incentive to spend their holidays anywhere but the US. Watch whilst the US tourist industry takes a dive because of this bureaucratic stupidity.
  • Yes, we have. We have come up with the brilliant idea that you can stop creative, imaginative rule-breaking terrorists by coming up with a strict set of rules and following them like robots. For example, there was a case of a pilot being hassled by security over his nail clippers. The reality is that the only person on a plane who is tautologically incapable of hijacking a plane is the pilot! And nail clippers have never been a threat to airplanes. The real security flaw that the 9/11 hijackers exploited was our social condition to "comply and everything will be alright." That has never been true in history and it's not true now, but whatever. Americans will buy anything if it is sold the right way, so we've gone from a culture that says "I'm responsible and I will solve the problem" to a culture that says "I'm not responsible, I'll call 911 and hope that someone else will solve the problem in time." Many people have called 911 and then spent the rest of their lives waiting for help...

    I'm sure other threads will bring this up, but Bruce Schneier has a great term for this: he calls it "security theater".

    Fortunately terrorism isn't a threat in the US. The chances of dying of terrorism here are less than the chances of being killed by lightening or many other things. We shouldn't worry about it.

    Ok, here's a link about responsibility and human rights [].

    • by intnsred ( 199771 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @09:04PM (#10040670)
      Bruce Schneier has a great term for this: he calls it "security theater".

      He hit the nail right on the head; that's exactly what it is.

      Fortunately terrorism isn't a threat in the US. The chances of dying of terrorism here are less than the chances of being killed by lightening or many other things. We shouldn't worry about it.

      Shhh -- you're not supposed to say that, no matter how true it is. :-)

      But no matter how true that is, it is not what the general population believes. And when you think about it, you can't blame them too much.

      When night after night the news talks about terrorism and our vulnerabilities, it sinks into people. It should, it's supposed to. It's just like crime -- if you overreport crime enough people will lock their doors, feel frightened of blacks, and support ever-increasing police budgets and prison populations.

      It's simple propaganda.
  • TSA Response... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by singularity ( 2031 ) * <> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:13PM (#10040380) Homepage Journal
    TSA's response []to my email []

    Security requirements issued by the TSA establish a security minimum for adoption by air carriers and airports. Air carriers and airports may exceed those minimum standards by implementing more stringent security requirements. This prevents potential terrorists from "beating the system" by learning how it operates. Leaving out any one group, such as senior citizens or the clergy, undermine security. We simply cannot assume that all future terrorists will fit any particular profile.

    On another, related subject...

    The worst part of the black-list that Senator Kennedy was complaining about? The committee he was talking to is not thinking about getting rid of the list, but rather moving it from airline control, as it is currently, to government controlled.

    While I think that the airlines have bungled things up royally with it, am I really going to trust the *government* to do things better?

    Of course Senator Kennedy was not able get anywhere talking to the airline. The airline checks its manifest with the government. The government says "This person cannot fly. It is your responsibility to deal with that." What can the airline do?

    Getting a new driver's license takes me an entire afternoon. What makes me think that the government is going to make it easier to get off the black-list?

    The problem with these lists (and the reason people are suing so they do not have to show ID at the security checkpoint) is that *we do not have a list of terrorists*.

    I mean, Senator Kennedy was kept off the plane, but he was not arrested. The FBI did not come talk to him. Rather, he was put through more rigorous screening.

    What does that mean? It means that the government realizes it will get innocent people with similar names, and that it is fine with that. It has no motivation for getting people off that list. Delaying people at the airport does not cost the government one cent. Indeed, they can use it as "proof" that they are doing something about terrorism.

    So instead of using "T. Kennedy", Senator Kennedy uses "Edward Kennedy" and gets on the plane without problem. Yeah, the terrorists will NEVER think of that.

    It is like the "Free Speech Zones" that Bush erects whenever he speaks somewhere. The reasoning? Protesters can cause problems, and we want to avoid those security and safety concerns.

    Yeah, since people that want to cause trouble (be they protesters or terrorists) are not smart enough to realize they can get a lot closer without an anti-Bush sign.

    No, as a frequent airline traveler, I can tell you that most of what the government and airlines have done since Sept. 11th. is "feel good security", designed to make it look safer, but really not improve things too much.

    I have argued with a TSA employee [] at a security checkpoint when he overstepped his bounds. Have you?

    We need to start speaking up, even if we worry we might not make our planes.
  • by femto ( 459605 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:19PM (#10040407) Homepage
    The more governments adopt this 'guilty until proven otherwise' strategy, the tighter Osama's grip on victory in the 'war' on terror.

    The real war front is not in Iraq or Afghanistan. It is in our own societies: at the airport check in, the railway station, the stadium, anywhere we have to trust other people. If we lose on this front, we lose the power to even demand a stop to the violence in Iraq.

    Such 'security' diminishes us as human beings. Why can't our leaders see that the terrorists WANT draconian security inside their targets. Our leaders are doing the terrorist's work for them. Distrust and alienation is fuel for terrorism, not a solution.

    First step is to recognise the humanity in those around us. Next step is to break the cycle and recognise the humanity of those we share the wider world with.

  • by pvt_medic ( 715692 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:22PM (#10040427)
    people forget that the events of 9/11 did not happen from a break down in security they were organized and carried out with items that were allowed. Security has lost the point, a weapon is not just something that is sharp and pointed it is intent. Take a look at your desk and think about how many items you have there that could inflict sever bodily harm. There needs to be a major reform in not only security, but the attitude that security is carried out with.
  • Just the facts (Score:4, Interesting)

    by da_Den_man ( 466270 ) <dcruise@hotcoffee . o rg> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:25PM (#10040447) Homepage
    I regularly go through the airport 2-4 times a week on business. I am the average male caucasian, with a backpack (w/Notebook) wearing sneakers (No metal in these babies) jeans, and a cotton shirt. I have gotten checked going into the terminal for shoes ("We recommend that you remove your shoes..." Do I HAVE to take them off? "No...but we recommend you do" I leave them on and get searched.) For the bag ( what kind of work do you do?...Uh,, I work with computers?) and several other items (Hint..One way ticket means extra line time). However, I am also one of those people who smokes cigarettes. Most airports dont have a smoking section nor even a place in the terminal to think about smoking. You ave to go OUTSIDE. Meaning, when (not are ALWAYS delayed ) the flight is delayed, and I have time to go smoke, I do. I have spent over 6 hours at a time in the same airports. Each time, I exit, smoke, and walk back through security. I see the same people I saw an hour before. After the 3rd or fourth time, they actually get to know me. Asking 'Why do you keep coming through the line?" and I just hold up a cigarette pack. Each time, it is the same process. Same person usually. Yet, I dont complain about the fact they do it each time. I think I would complain if they didn't. Do I think them searching everyone going through makes one bit of difference as to whether or not terrorists will do it again? No. I don't.

    hell, I had more trouble explaining my ZIPPO lighter than I did all the other electronic stuff I carry.

  • by shoppa ( 464619 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:27PM (#10040457)
    The problem with the TSA systems (CAPPS I, CAPPS II, whatever) is that they've been trained using data which is 100% non-terrorists. So they fudge some numbers to make some fraction of them be "terrorirsts" just because otherwise the system would naturally declare everyone not a threat.

    Now you can fault the airlines or the government for having accessed all our private information just to train and calibrate the systems, but there's a more fundamental problem: they didn't usefully train or calibrate those systems at all. They just wasted time and money. And they give at least some people a false sense of security when all it really is, is mumbo-jumbo.

  • by chiph ( 523845 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:30PM (#10040483)
    I knew the airport security system was doomed when they started searching 86 year old Medal of Honor recipients []

    Chip H.
  • Wrong question! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by intnsred ( 199771 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:31PM (#10040492)
    The article ponders the question, "Have we lost our common sense when it comes to passenger screening?"

    The question assumes the purpose of the screening is security. It is not. The purpose of the screening is to build fear in the population.

    Only a fearful population will sit back and do nothing while the gov't and its neo-cons pass laws like the Patriot Act and eviscerate the Bill of Rights. The corporate media plays into this fear-mongering, with everything from shows like "Cops" to overreporting crime issues and parroting whatever the gov't says.

    One example: NYC (and some other areas) are supposed to be on a "High" level of terrorism alert. That's serious, right?! Yet it was just reported that NYC has dispatched dozens and dozens of police across the country to watch American citizens who might be coming to NYC to protest the Republican convention.

    Given this, obviously NYC has all of its terrorism options more than covered, right? Why else would they be wasting their police manpower to send cops around the country to do 24hr surveillance on Americans with no terrorist background?

    The emperor has no clothes. This terrorism hype is just like the airport security hype. They know there's little they can do to stop terrorism, so they are instead focusing on domestic issues and creating a fearful population that can be easily manipulated after the next inevitable terrorist attack.
  • I am prior TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:37PM (#10040527) Homepage
    I've got a bit of inside view of the TSA and what is going on in the minds of screeners and their superiors. Without a little Q&A I'm not sure what people really want to know but I will put forth the following assertions that should not at all be surprising:

    1. There are *some* screeners with sensibility about them, but they are seemingly outnumbered by a collection of morons who seem to enjoy causing people pain and discomfort. I've seen it too many times. God help the screener who doesn't follow the rules when I go to the airport because I'll cause them a world of problems.

    2. The logic behind the screening process is that "Anyone could be a terrorist." The training is very "politically correct" and does not leave much room for personal opinion or feelings to come into play. This means that even when they are following the rules, they're often duty-bound to be assholes. That said, some people still go "above and beyond" and seem to love it too much.

    3. I have been to other airports and even to another country... Japan in this case. Security wasn't all that different in Japan. (I managed to breeze through without incident.) I have also heard from other travelling TSA screeners who have visited other countries because we were interested to know how it is out there. Spain, in particular, was pretty rude by comparison to the U.S. security measures. I've also heard that certain places will not allow anything on board that uses a battery. I'm not saying the TSA couldn't use improvment here, but by comparison, the U.S. airport screening process is VERY streamlined and efficient while allowing people to actually enjoy their flight once they get through.

    While people sit back and judge how bad things are with the broken system, I invite anyone to consider how it could be run without violating any non-discrimination policies. I think it'd be impossible to be sensible and non-discriminatory at the same time.

    In my opinion, I think all flights should have two or more armed FAMs on every flight and they should all but do away with the detailed passenger screening that is being done today. Baggage screening is pretty much on-target but should be handled with more over-sight because too many bad things go on there as well. (Things like theft, damage and laziness are a bit too common in my opinion...especially when bagage screening goes on away from public view)

    Ask questions and I'll answer honestly. I might be stirring up a bit of trouble for myself, but I don't think anything I've said so far would be surprising in the least to anyone.
  • by ComputerSlicer23 ( 516509 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:43PM (#10040560)
    Uhh, somebody should go over to the TSA and hand them a copy of the Constitution, Article 1, Section 6:
    They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

    They should get a copy of the bill of rights, and have it scratched to their cornea, so that they can have a copy within sight at all times, but that's a totally different issue.

    However, in this case, if they hassle or stop the a Senator or Representative of the House, that is literally unconstitutional. Unless they are charging him with a Felony, Treason, or Breach of the Peace. He can't be stopped and questioned in any place except the House he serves in.

    It's the reason why members of Congress can't get a speeding ticket in Washington D.C. If they guy was on his way to Washington D.C. he's literally got constitutional immunity from this sort of thing. I'd much rather it be fixed in the general case, but in this particular case, I'd be curious to see what happens if he challenges it on a constitional basis.


  • by syukton ( 256348 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:49PM (#10040588)
    The cockpit of a plane should be inaccessible via the cabin. An airplane should carry two pilots and two co-pilots, and they would board the aircraft from a different hatch than everyone else; a hatch which only opens into the cockpit. Hijacking problem averted.

    Then we can return to our regularly scheduled NOT BEING SO FUCKING AFRAID OF EVERYTHING.
  • by scupper ( 687418 ) * on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:52PM (#10040606) Homepage
    New 9/11 Report Blasts Customs Service html []

    The report, compiled by the commission's staff, says 13 of the 19 hijackers applying for visas presented passports that were less than three weeks old, yet their visa applications were met with no increased scrutiny.

    Two of the hijackers, the report said, lied on their applications "in detectable ways" but were not questioned about those lies. And all 19 of the hijackers' applications had data fields left blank, or were incomplete in some other way.

    Three of the hijackers were carrying Saudi passports "containing a possible extremist indicator" present in the passports of many al-Qaida members, the report said. While it's not clear what that indicator was, the report added that it had not been analyzed by the CIA, FBI or border authorities for its significance.

    The report is one of two staff addenda to the commission's final report, which was released last month.

    The other report released Saturday analyzed the hijackers' financing.
    It concluded:
    • There is no evidence that anyone in the United States, or any other country, provided substantial funding to the hijackers. Most of the money came from al-Qaida.
    • Gaps remain in the intelligence community's understanding of how the terrorist network moves its money. "Because of the complexity and variety of ways to collect and move small amounts of money in a vast worldwide financial system, gathering intelligence on al Qaeda financial flows will remain a hard target for the foreseeable future," the report said.
    The commission officially disbanded Saturday, when its congressional mandate expired. The commissioners had not approved the final text of the reports.
  • by moankey ( 142715 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @09:42PM (#10040856)
    One thing thats is prevelant while I have been traveling around the world lately is that many govt workers just dont care one way or another.
    While in other countries I noticed regardless of position the person doing it knew checking the papers was something that was of utmost importance and it was their job.

    The passport checker would take my papers look them over for about 3-7 minutes and then allow me to move forward, or in some instances ask a gentleman to the side for some sort of re-verification with someone else. People gathering luggage carts did it speedily and was smart enough to see that when someone needed one take it out if their train and give it to the weary traveler.

    Upon arrival at LAX I noticed people asked to see various forms of ID while traveling through the terminals about 4 times before luggage claim, with each time no one even glancing at the paper they are asking for, but simply taking it and handing it back. As if passing time till next pay day. Cart gatherers would take carts and if someone needed one direct them to where they should get them, with a life sucks type attitude. No one around to provide information to foreigners on where to get a taxi or even where to proceed next.
    Ever since the boomer generation and subsequent generations it seems no one cares one way or another about much of anything, Im beginning to believe my grandparents stories on how they had a work ethic over us. What we need is people taking pride back in whatever it is they do and I would say almost all the things that frustrate us daily would disappear.
  • by joshv ( 13017 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @10:19PM (#10041082)
    I recently took a trip to Scotland. On the return leg the woman at the check-in desk was convinced that I had already check in. I told her repeatedly no, that I had not check in. It turned out that they had mistakenly checked someone else in as me (both our last names have 'Van' in them, I commonly have this problem, everyone who is Van* is lumped together in the dim-witted minds that run the world's bureaucracies)

    Eventually they sort out the problem, and my wife and I board the plane. We find our seats and get comfortable (well, as comfortable as one can be with 19 inches of leg room). A few minutes later a women stops at our row, and claims we are sitting in her seats. I profer my boarding pass, which shows me in the proper seat, she looks at hers - it has my name on it!

    Now think about this. We were stopped and our IDs compared to our boarding passes at no less than 3 check points in the airport. This woman managed to get on the airplane with a boarding pass that not only didn't have her name on it, it had an obviously male name on it. She was quite obviously not male.

    The entire system is badly broken. In my situation at least three different employees utterly failed to perform the most basic component of their job - validating ID. I have absolutely no confidence in our airline security systems. If they ever catch someone in the act, it will be purely accidental. My sole consolation is that, as others in the thread have noted, the 'evil-doers' of the world have most likely abandonned hijacking as means to whatever nefarious ends they seek, as the passengers are no longer likely to be so compliant as they were pre-9/11.

  • The Amusing Thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @10:49PM (#10041258) Homepage
    is the second guy got himself off the list because he ADDED HIS MIDDLE INITIAL to his name!

    Think about the stupid programming!

    All a terrorist has to do is add something to his name and he drops off the list!

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! Your tax dollars at work!

    If this doesn't prove that the whole thing is purely a) for show and b) to increase the government's ability to harass the citizenry for no reason at all except to prove they can, I don't know what does.

    And, yes, some morons say some of the 9/11 terrorists used their own names when they traveled. What does this tell you? They weren't terrorists, that's what. Either that or the names they used weren't actually theirs and the FBI/CIA is too stupid to determine their real names.

  • Conspiracy theory (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:34PM (#10041466) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps the powers that be are simply trying to destroy the airline industry?

    If you flew back in the sixties (yes, I am old enough to be authoritative about this) you were fed decent meals and lavished with extreme courtesy by very well turned out flight attendants. Just generally you were dealing with a high end, high cost transport method and that's how you were treated. It was fun and it was interesting and it wasn't all that expensive, though I can't say it felt cheap. Throw in a limo at both ends and we're talking something to truly look forward to.

    Sadly, today we're dealing with a low end, cut-rate, cattle-call transport method and that's how you're treated. Aside from some extremely misguided women's liberation / political correctness bonehead moves attempting to reject and/or hide femininity, most of this is IMHO due to government interference with the airlines. Deregulation on the one hand, and over regulation on the other.

    So some of the makings of a decent conspiracy theory seem to be there.

    However, after quite a bit of consideration, I've decided that it is probably stupidity on the part of the government, rather than any organized attempt to destroy the industry. Mainly, this is because I can't figure out why they would be trying to do so - no matter how clear it is that they are doing so.

    But I'm not closed minded about it. Not everyone in government is an idiot, clearly, so maybe there is a conspiracy. Anyone have any wild ideas to flesh this out? The government might want to destroy the airline industry because... ???

    • They want the rails to flourish again?
    • They own stock in Detroit industry?
    • ...c'mon, help me out here. :)

    As an aside, mainly because of what a lousy experience flying is these days, I don't take planes any longer; I drive. I've renewed an interest in high performance cars and added fun gadgets (like street-level mapping GPS, XM Radio, scanners, ham radio, radar and laser detectors, some pretty extreme car audio) and turned my steadily more-and-more annoying business travel back into a perk. Now all I have to do is avoid speeding tickets, which so far I've managed to do. :)

  • by BCW2 ( 168187 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @01:40AM (#10042004) Journal
    If they keep all the Congresscritters from flying. They might have to stay in Wasington and actually do their jobs.

    If brains were dynamite, no one in Washington could blow their nose.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll