Wednesday, November 17, 2010

National Security State becomes matter of fact - we're left arguing the details

The election of President Obama has done nothing to slow the institutionalization of The National Security State*. In fact, not wanting to appear soft of security the White House may have speeded its triumphant ascendancy.

It's our fault, the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) needs our fear - it feeds on it. On a personal level we must stop being scared of those with less, those squalid squatters who dress in uniforms we don't recognize. Stop staring at the sidewalk, start talking, start helping. It's an old idea - love thy neighbour. This will be the MIC's ultimate undoing. On a political level demand more public resources for social programs, schools, roads. As in the process of getting out of a war, the first step is to withdraw troops, in the process of getting out of The National Security State, the most effective device is to demand spending on caring rather than fear.

The newly installed back-scatter body imaging devices coming to more and more airports in North America, 44 are being placed as we speak at Canadian Airports (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax).They are another example in the ever spiraling spending on National Security that is big business's best weapon against The Liberal Democratic State, which limits they're ability to produce profit. Our tax dollars are being used to scare us into more sending on the military and less spending on our fellow human beings.


Bruce Schneier is my go to expert on security issues. He always has an informed and usually unexpected take; and with the propaganda surrounding The National Security State prompted by 9/11 and the rising of the military industrial comple to primacey in American life now in full swing, his take is unfortunately increasingly necessary to remain both informed and sane at the same time.

He calls security aimed at preventing the loss of life through terrorist actions a waste of money, He calls it “security theater”, designed to make the government look good and you feel better about the holocaust they are protecting you from. Schneier says spending on "intelligence, investigations, and emergency response" to terrorist events is money best spent.

You can't stop a lone nut with a bomb in a crowded place, you can only mitigate the effects on society that the horror of a sucessful terrorist action causes. That means you have top notch investigators finding the perpetrators who organized the suicide nutter after the fact, and shut down those networks, after the fact. Our belief in justice is another kind of "security theater", but a much more healthy one than the brand of jack booted military on our streets - like what Israel, for example, has become - this one rather, is based in a belief that perpetrators of evil will be caught and judged and that although there are nutters out there our common love for each other is stronger and will limit their effect at causing general fearfulness in society.

I would add that in a perfect world foreign policy would be geared to support local governments where we do business, and less towards imperial objectives that steal raw materials, impoverish local governments and cause "failed states" which lead to local social in-justices and then to a pool of discontents from which evil doers draw cadre. (Blow-back.)

At the Atlantic Monthly Jeffrey Goldberg has a special understanding of security issues, his experience as a security guard in an Israeli prison (research for a book), and as a frequent flier. In 2008 he wrote a great piece with the help of Bruce Schneier entitled "The Things he Carried".

The sub-header goes,

"Airport security in America is a sham— “security theater” designed to make travelers feel better and catch stupid terrorists. Smart ones can get through security with fake boarding passes and all manner of prohibited items—as our correspondent did with ease."

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Nov 14 2010: TSA Opt-Out Day, Now with a Superfantastic New Twist!
Nov 4 2010: American Airlines Pilots in Revolt Against the TSA
Nov 1 2010: 'Are Any Parts of Your Body Sore?'
Oct 29 2010: For the First Time, the TSA Meets Resistance


On Saturday November 13th 2010 'Johnnyedge' - blogger since July of this year - decided to take an fight to be with family. Knowing that the new backscatter scanners were coming to more and more airports, he looked up Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) website and found it said that San Diego hadn't yet received the new technology. Knowing that he would refuse the "porno scan" (a device that basically sees through your clothes) he was worried that refusing the scan might cause him problems, so as soon as be saw the scanners had been installed at San Diego after all, he switched on his cell phones camera and began recording. He doesn't feel comfortable being 'porn scanned' by the backscatter x-ray so he prepared for the "pat down" search. But now he learns from the security guard that the 'opt-out' alternative, the pat down has changed it is now a much more invasive - a full testicular 'fondle', which he also refuses. So that simply means he can't board the airplane, right? End of story right? Off you go - no fly for you.

Nope, not so simple.

After the long "discussion" (interrogation) with the initial TSA security guard, and his supervisor and the supervisor of that supervisor, Johnnyedge was told to leave the airport under escort --- but as he's doing so a plain clothed agent he's never seen before tries to stop him, claiming he must submit to the "porno scan", or the "fondle", before he can not get on an airplane!

Johnnyedge understands his rights and the correct way to frame discussions with authority figures, so he asks if he's being detained. And when the answer comes back, sort of, well no not really ... I'm just trying to help you co-operate with us - Johnnyedge says, "I'm leaving" - thus placing the officer in a situation where either he makes an arrest, or lets him leave.

"We'll sue you, you know" the officer finally retorts.

As he walks away Johnnyedge says "Bring that suit".

Still no word on whether the TSA has the balls to follow through, perhaps the 5,000 comments on the post about this and the hundreds on subsiquent post about it - almost all of which support him - has the TSA thinking it over a little first... .

The law is political - never underestimate a political movements ability to change law. The TSA and the White House are sitting on a powder keg of public outrage on this, and they know it. And what the hell is this lawsuit/fine stuff? Is that actually in the law? That has got to go.


Stories of harassment by low paid, badly trained TSA security guards with power lust are abounding around these recent "upgrades" to airport security. (see "For the First Time, the TSA Meets Resistance") Added to "porn scan" metric is the fact that most (all?) TSA employees don't want to preform these hand searches and because most of them aren't too bright it appears many describe the full-fondle search in such a way that it sounds like they are convincing you to take the back-scatter x-ray, like the hand search is a punishment for being un-cooperative, rather than an option. So now the person who is about to feel your genitals is threatening you. By making the full-feel body search so intrusive at this time the TSA seems to be hoping that people will choose the naked picture and the radiation exposure over the high-school dropout feeling you up. If everyone chose the hand option airline schedules wouldn't be meet, the airlines would complain and the scanners would be removed.
Man at San Diego airport opts out of porno scanner and grope, told he'll be fined $10K unless he submits to fondling
Cory Doctorow at 4:22 PM Saturday, Nov 13, 2010

This isn't the first issue that's arisen from these over the top screening procedures that keep on getting more and more intrusive, a fund raiser for Senator Ron Paul's (Independent - extreme libertarian) Campaign for Liberty was recently detained by a TSA employee... article, Detained by TSA:

"In town for a conference, a director of Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty is detained by TSA at the St. Louis airport because when asked to explain why he's carrying $4,700 in cash (it was proceeds from book and ticket sales at the conference), he asks the agents to tell him what law requires him to do so. He managed to surreptitiously record his conversations with TSA officers on a cell phone. The audio is infuriating."
The screenshot shows the embedded Youtube video is no longer up because the account has been "terminated":
"This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement."

The "" Youtube Channel is still up - so where at Youtube this video was uploaded remains unknown. Was it Steven Bierfeldt's Youtube channel? If so, the recording is his own property and certainly not the reason the channel has been "terminated". Who complained about copyright infringement - we'll never know. But that link is now dead.

(Note: You don't get a hearing on the "multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement" your account is simply terminated. This is the Millennium Digital Copyright Act (MDCA) in action. It's international version, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), has not been passed into law around the globe yet and secrete meetings - that include only the rich nations of the planet - continue. With-in the MDCA service providers (your cable provider, the internet site, the phone service provider etc..) is required to take down content that rights holders complain is posted with out permission. They are caught between you as a user of the technology, and a lawsuit launched by a corporation with lots of lawyers and deep pockets - thus you lose and you have no recourse to face the accuser.)

This is the first time I've come across a "terminated" account that was directly involved in an unfolding political issue, in my experience these terminations have always involved entertainment copyright violations. This one is particularly scary - it is directly connected to a citizen suing a federal government agency, Steve Bierfeldt and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) versus Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, (which has authority over TSA).

The recording is available at the ALCU site,

Audio Recording of ACLU Client Steve Bierfeldt's Detention and Interrogation by the TSA.

In the tape Steve Bierfeldt repeatedly asks the security personel for advice in the law, "..are you allowed to ask me that question?" he asks, "Am I legally required to answer that?" One security guard takes these questions as double speak, (perhaps he doesn't know the answer) and becomes violent slamming the top of the money box and raising his voice.


It should be noted that the officer detaining you doesn't have to act as your council - in fact, why would you ask an officer detaining you to tell you what your rights are? In our adversarial system the person detaining you is the last person you should be asking advice; it's your responsibility to know the law. Steve Bierfeldt finally gets the wording right near the end of the interrogation when he says, "I decline to answer the question." (about his employer and where he got the money).

The only time an officer is required to "read you your rights" is when they arrest you, and a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security guard is not an officer of the law.

Here in Ontario you have to answer some questions put to you by police - like what your name is, your address. You have to produce ID (which you are legally required to have with you), answer where you're coming from, where your going to - and that's about it.

At a Canadian airport the "Canadian Air Transport Security Authority" (CATSA) is our TSA. They're requirements of passengers are almost identical to the TSA framework because Canada is responding to Homeland Security edicts that require carriers and airpot authorities to preform securty proceedures that mirror US law and TSA policy. The responsibilities of CATSA security guards vary from TSA's protocols.

Here's a link to the Canadian Government site, "The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada" that explains your rights and responsibilities at Canadian airports. Nowhere on the page, "Checking In. Your privacy rights at airports and border crossings", is there guidance on a possible interrogation scenario; what questions security guards can ask, what they cannot ask and do. An oversight I assume, and one that should be corrected as soon a possible as the interrogation is where the mot intimate contact happens between passenger and security, and thus is the place where the individuals privacy rights are most likely to be abused.

This is a handy page at the ALCU that goes into some of the American experience on this,

"Know Your Options at the Airport" (updated November 2010)

Specifically this section:
Border Interrogations

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have the authority to ask your immigration status when you are entering or returning to the United States or leaving the country. They have the power to determine whether or not non-U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have the right of entry.

Law enforcement officials reportedly ask some people about their political and religious beliefs, where they worship, and how often they pray. The ACLU believes that such questions are inappropriate.

Option: Decline to answer

If you think you are being asked inappropriate questions, you may say, "I am sorry. I believe you are asking me questions about my protected religious and/or political beliefs and practices. I do not wish to answer these questions." This may cause you delay, but is permissible.

Option: Ask to speak to a supervisor

If you think you are being asked inappropriate questions, you can ask to speak to a supervisor--but be aware that this might cause you further delay. Also ask to speak to a supervisor if you are denied the right to use a restroom or to have family or friends told where you are. You may also file a complaint with the Civil Rights Office of the Department of Homeland Security if you have been held for a long time, asked inappropriate questions, or treated inhumanely. See below.

Option: Ask to have an attorney present

If you are selected for a longer interview by law-enforcement officials and you are a U.S. citizen, you have the right to have an attorney present. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you generally do not have the right to an attorney when you are having an extended interview.

Option: Ask for help

If you are delayed a considerable length of time, you can ask CBP officials to allow you to make a call, or make a call for you. At Logan Airport in Boston, MassPort officials have said they can provide help on many problems. You can look for agents with jackets that say "MassPort" on them and ask them for help. Or you can call 1-800-23LOGAN.

* Creating the National Security State: A History of the Law That Transformed America, Douglas T. Stuart, Princeton University Press, 2008)


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