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TSA Investigates Pilot Who Exposed Security Flaws 394

Posted by timothy
from the thanks-for-the-tips dept.
stewart_maximus writes "The TSA is investigating a TSA deputized pilot who posted videos to YouTube pointing out security flaws. Flaws exposed include ground crew clearing security with just a card swipe while pilots have to go through metal detectors, and a 'medieval-looking rescue ax' being available on the flight deck. Three days after posting the video, 6 government officials arrived at his door to question him and confiscated his federal firearm (and his concealed weapon permit)."
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TSA Investigates Pilot Who Exposed Security Flaws

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  • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Friday December 24, 2010 @09:26AM (#34659326)

    Granted, I haven't seen all the videos this pilot made, but from what I have seen and read so far it sounds like what this pilot was pointing out was things that were already publicly known. Things like airport ground crews having access to restricted areas without themselves having to go through screening, no TSA agents searching them or anything they carry prior to having access to aircraft, etc. Anybody with an ounce of intelligence could have figured out what this pilot documented by just sitting at an airport and watching for a little while, or by getting chummy with airport employees at a nearby bar and asking a few basic questions.

    And I certainly don't think this pilot was the first one to point out these flaws. It just sounds to me like the TSA is trying to make a scapegoat out of him.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Friday December 24, 2010 @09:39AM (#34659410) Homepage

      I read an article on this about six months ago. It's public knowledge, yes.

      The guy with the controls in his hands and a locked cabin door behind him needs to be searched to see if he's carrying a weapon. Makes sense, right?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 24, 2010 @10:07AM (#34659584)

        You forgot your sarcasm tag. The guy flying the plane doesn't need any weapons to destroy it, he's controlling the biggest weapon, the plane itself.

      • The guy with the controls in his hands and a locked cabin door behind him needs to be searched to see if he's carrying a weapon. Makes sense, right?

        That would only be true if they were searching the guy in the cockpit, but they aren't. They are searching a guy in a uniform walking into a terminal. The TSA agents have a tough enough time distinguishing between guns [examiner.com] and sticks of deodorant. It is unwise to expect them to be able to accurately verify the identity of someone who claims to be a pilot.

        • by corbettw (214229)

          Yes, because it would be impossible for the airlines to screen their own pilots and then issue them a special device to open otherwise-locked doors.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 24, 2010 @10:02AM (#34659554)

      The persecution of this pilot isn't for giving away security secrets. It is for making a popular video on YouTube that exposes the security theater. The purpose of the TSA is to make the public feel like they are protected. Pointing out real security issues breaks the illusion.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday December 24, 2010 @10:08AM (#34659586) Homepage
      Yeah, like Patrick Smith [salon.com] (aka 'Ask the Pilot), a professional pilot and writer who has been complaining, and writing, about these exact things for years.

      Maybe he will get a lump of coal in his stocking tomorrow.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smchris (464899)

      Same old story. You don't expose the idiocies of power and expect a jolly response for your helpfulness.

    • Makes no difference (Score:4, Interesting)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday December 24, 2010 @10:23AM (#34659634)
      The point is not about the information being public. The point is about the public being aware of it. The TSA exists so that the general public will feel like they are being protected from dangerous terrorists when they travel.

      If you are in a big city, take a look around, especially in busy areas. On one side, you see the things the public is supposed to see: storefronts, public transportation, police officers, SWAT teams that just sort of stand around, etc. On the other side, you see service entrances, maintenance corridors, and unlocked doors labeled "DO NOT ENTER." The general public is kept on their toes by constantly having reminders that they need to be protected pushed in their faces, and scary-looking people with guns and dogs do a good job of that (as do enhanced pat-downs, apparently). The fact that a determined terrorist could sneak past all the security is pretty much irrelevant.
    • by microbox (704317) on Friday December 24, 2010 @11:04AM (#34659866)
      ... trying to make a scapegoat out of him.

      It is how the authoritarian minds works. You are either with us, or against us. Basic intelligence doesn't play a role.
    • by jimrthy (893116)

      It's one thing to mention the bits and pieces in isolation. It's quite a different matter to put them all together and point out the logical conclusion. Especially if you're someone as trusted as a pilot.

      It's vital that "they" get him dismissed as a crackpot or some sort of dangerous traitor, ASAP. Otherwise, he's just undermined Big Brother's tenuous position.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 24, 2010 @09:27AM (#34659332)

    but I did not catch the terroriiists.

    (c) 2010, the TSA.

  • more leaks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Friday December 24, 2010 @09:27AM (#34659336) Homepage Journal

    The Nazi government of US of A has turned completely bat-shit insane. All it does is taking away personal freedoms from people:

    Freedoms to speak (wikileaks), freedoms to think (public schools funded and guided by the dep't of education), freedoms to fair trial (Irwin Schiff, Guantanamo, private Manning...), freedoms to do business without harassment (Patriot Act, IRS, CIA, all the regulations and rules and subsidies and taxes), freedoms to deal in real money (Fed printing, 0% interest setting, destruction of currency).

    The entire thing is rotten to the core, whether you agree with me on every point or not, but I am not interested in any consensus. My consensus is simple: gov't is cancer and it's killing the society through killing the economy and taking away people's freedoms.

    Some justify the US federal gov't in what it does by bringing up the commerce clause, the general welfare clause etc., but since the gov't can justify anything it wants with those clauses right now it's time to ask yourself a question:

    Is there a PURPOSE to the Constitution and what IS the purpose? Isn't the purpose of the Constitution to LIMIT the gov't in what it can do? If the commerce/welfare clauses allow the gov't to do whatever it wants, what is then the real purpose of the Constitution and why not just say: gov't can do whatever the fuck it wants and be done with the pretenses?

    • by houghi (78078)

      Once a wise man said: [...] but you can't fool all the people all the time.
      Them somebody said: Why should we fool them? They won't do anything against it if we do.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by t2t10 (1909766)

      The Nazi government of US of A has turned completely bat-shit insane. All it does is taking away personal freedoms from people

      You're "bat-shit insane" if you think that that is anything like the Nazis. And you're totally ignorant of history if you think that the US is less free today than it was 50 or 100 years ago.

      Yes, there are problems in the US, there always have been and there always will be; it's the nature of democracy and freedom. If we want to deal with those, citizens need to get smarter, more i

      • Re:more leaks (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jimrthy (893116) on Friday December 24, 2010 @11:48AM (#34660178) Homepage Journal

        Compare what happened after 9/11 with the burning of the Reichstag. And what happened afterward. The parallel isn't perfect, but it's about as close as repeating history ever gets.

        The federal government has been systematically destroying freedom in the U.S. for the past 100 years (at least). There have been a few advances, but, even with them, the government usually manages to take away at least as much as it gives (the civil rights movement led to things like enforced political correctness, busing, and racist hiring quotas).

        It probably isn't fair to call America's government "Nazi," but it's well on its way to fascism. (And, no, fascism really isn't all that different from socialism...it's just one logical step further along the road back to feudalism).

        "Foaming-at-the-mouth" lunacy doesn't really do any good to promote the cause of freedom. But I can understand the GP's frustration. I can't understand your complacency/collusion at all. Then again, America's always been an uneasy alliance between people who want to be free, the ones who want everyone to be slaves, and the ones who are determined to master everyone else.

        Maybe it's time to admit that that alliance has failed, split it up, and go our separate ways. While we can still do so peacefully.

  • Classic TSA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RenHoek (101570)

    The TSA is clearly a firm believer in security through obscurity.

  • Doh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by imthesponge (621107)
    What would you expect if you purposefully published the flaws in your company's security? "Oh, you silly goose!"
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is more than publishing the flaws.

      It's about exposing the farce that is TSA's security theater.

    • Re:Doh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 24, 2010 @09:50AM (#34659490)

      Except the pilot is not working for the TSA, he is working for an airline.

      And let's put it in another perspective: TSA is not a company (correct me if I am wrong), it is public: which means he is informing the owners of the company (the public)
      about a problem with the management (the TSA policy makers).

      • The first sentence of the summary contradicts that. He does work for the TSA.
      • ...TSA is not a company (correct me if I am wrong), it is public: which means he is informing the owners of the company (the public)...

        Nonsense. You don't get to just waltz into a military base and take a tank out for a ride, because you "own" it.

        Perhaps collectively, you could say that the public owns everything that government does. But as individual private citizens we don't own government. We only determine it. It's independent of us, while being subject to our approval. Your right to information about the TSA's operations is limited to the FOIA. No more, no less.

        This pilot was acting as an individual, not in an official capacit

    • That depends. If the security flaws were previously unknown outside my company, I'd expect to lose my job. But if I was pointing out what the whole world already knew, I wouldn't expect reprisals. Then again, I've always worked for at-least-somewhat-reasonable companies, not the 'batshit insane', (as one other poster put it), US government.

      • But if the policy is not to reveal details about security, and you do exactly that, then saying "But but everyone already knows!" isn't going to be much help.
    • Not quite. He was publishing the flaws in a company (=airport) his company (=air line) delivers services to (=services).

      Subtle but important difference. When I'm dealing with a company, especially if it's a fed owned company, I expect them to be able to deliver the goods and services they promise. If their security is actually just security theater that makes my job harder without increasing security altogether, I will inform my superiors and if they don't care, inform the owners of the other company.

      In cas

  • Take Note (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Digital Vomit (891734)
    Other countries take note: this is what happens when your country just rolls over and lets the terrorists win.
    • Re:Take Note (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nettdata (88196) on Friday December 24, 2010 @09:38AM (#34659402) Homepage

      This has nothing to do with terrorists winning, and everything to do with people who are friends and associates of those that are in power, taking advantage of a fictitious threat scenario, and cashing in on it. It's greed, plain and simple.

      Idiots are getting more and more power granted to them, and making more and more cash in the process, all for dealing with this "threat" that they've manufactured. They will do anything and everything they can to perpetuate it, as long as they retain and grow that power base and make more and more money.

      Security Theatre relies on keeping the public ignorant of what the real threats are, and of the proper ways to deal with them.

      And the morons in charge are making laws to protect themselves and keep it all going.

      The real terrorists are running the show.

      • by Suzuran (163234)

        There is no skinny man behind a curtain pulling levers and pushing buttons, there is ONLY the GREAT AND POWERFUL OZ!

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Ant P. (974313)

        This has nothing to do with terrorists winning, and everything to do with people who are friends and associates of those that are in power, taking advantage of a fictitious threat scenario, and cashing in on it. It's greed, plain and simple.

        I think you'll find that's the textbook definition of terrorism.

      • Re:Take Note (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Elbereth (58257) on Friday December 24, 2010 @09:56AM (#34659528) Journal

        I don't know. bin Laden knows what he's doing, and his greatest weapon is fear. Fear drives people to act irrationally. What he wants is for the United States to become so fascist that the people outright rebel against it, causing civil war and the destruction of the USA. Were I in his place, I wouldn't be so optimistic. I doubt that people will engage in outright rebellion until it gets so bad, they can't even watch their television in peace. Also, even *if* the USA (as we know it) is destroyed, something very similar will probably take its place. It's not like we're suddenly going to become a feminist, socialist technocracy or an Islamic republic. We'll probably just rewrite the Constitution slightly and abolish a few of the worst aspects of today's government, then go on doing whatever it is that we were doing previously. Meet the new boss... same as the old boss.

        Anyways, even if bin Laden is a bogeyman and our own government was behind 9/11 (or they consciously hijacked the tragedy for their own ends), it doesn't really change anything. The end result is the same. Fear, pseudo-change, and a new boss. Note that I'm not anti-Obama. I like Obama as much as the next guy who's apathetic about politicians and their promises. I just don't think that anyone who runs for political office can/will have much ability/desire to change the status quo, despite promises made. I meant "pseudo-change" in more of a grand sense, like how the French keep rewriting their Constitution and instituting new Republics. It's just the same old crap, under a different name.

        • Ah, the believable, sane version of the "truthers": "or they consciously hijacked the tragedy for their own ends." Politicians are explicitly good at that sort of thing -- hijacking events which impress upon the public for their own advantage.

        • What did Bin Laden want? According to any government information I'm aware of, he hates us because of our liberties and our freedom, he wants us to fear and cower and strip us of our western way of liberalism and that "American way of life".

          Mission accomplished, I'd say.

          • by jimrthy (893116)

            According to his manifesto [informatio...house.info], he wants us out of the Middle East. And he wants us to quit resisting Sharia law.

            So the government propaganda is partially truthful, but still strongly slanted.

        • Re:Take Note (Score:5, Interesting)

          by corbettw (214229) <corbettw.yahoo@com> on Friday December 24, 2010 @10:41AM (#34659734) Journal

          If we do get to the point where we rewrite the Constitution, we need to put some teeth in that sucker. For instance, establish a points-based system for unconstitutional laws. If a law is overturned as being unconstitutional, every member of congress (both the House and the Senate) gets one "point". Get to 10 points, and you are automatically barred from reelection or holding any kind of elective office, ever again. Get to 15 points and you're kicked out of office before the expiration of your current term. As it is now, Congress can pass all the fucked up laws they want with no danger of being called to account for it.

          • by Nimey (114278)

            I would be terrified of what'd be in the Constitution if we re-wrote it today.

        • by Nursie (632944)

          If revolution really takes hold in the US you'll want to get out, fast. The weak will hand over their power, possessions and freedoms to those they see as strong and who promise to lead them.

          The US south would become theocratic, the North and coastal regions, who knows. But if the people depose the current government structure, don't think for a second a better one will come into place without years of strife and bloodshed.

        • What he wants is for the United States to become so fascist that the people outright rebel against it, causing civil war and the destruction of the USA.

          The impression I get from what has been said about the tapes is that he will have hit his goal once the USA is seen as something that the Saudi rulers and possibly others in the region can not associate with if they want to retain power.
          He may be happy if the USA were to disintegrate as a side effect, but pretending that was his initial goal as many opportun

      • by alexo (9335)

        This has nothing to do with terrorists winning

        Yes, it does. As you said yourself:

        The real terrorists are running the show.

        Regarding the rest of your post:

        Idiots are getting more and more power granted to them, and making more and more cash in the process, all for dealing with this "threat" that they've manufactured. They will do anything and everything they can to perpetuate it, as long as they retain and grow that power base and make more and more money.

        They are not idiots. They are very smart, devious a

  • Good thing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spad (470073) <slashdot @ s p a d . c o.uk> on Friday December 24, 2010 @09:34AM (#34659378) Homepage

    It's a good thing those terrorists are stupid enough to document all of their pre-attack planning on Youtube, otherwise we'd never catch them...

    Security through absurdity, America's greatest weapon again terrorism!

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday December 24, 2010 @09:39AM (#34659416)

    Yet another example of that old saying:

    Question authority and Authority will question you!

    • There's another saying, I hope it doesn't get lost in translation: If you plan to say the truth, be sure you have a fast horse waiting outside the saloon.

      • That made me imagine a chaps and spurs wearing Assange strolling into a saloon, causing the piano music to suddenly stop...
  • Ground crew have privileged access to secure areas of the airport that demands more security, not less. Make them do an iris scan and enter a passcode in addition to swiping their badge.

    • Re:Biometrics (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AGMW (594303) on Friday December 24, 2010 @10:03AM (#34659558) Homepage

      Ground crew have privileged access to secure areas of the airport that demands more security, not less. Make them do an iris scan and enter a passcode in addition to swiping their badge.

      Unless the ground crew also go through the wonderful new nudey-scan machines (or are otherwise touched up and fondled) EVERY TIME they cross into air-side then there's a glaring hole in the process! Any one of the ground crew could be turned (I've got your daughter and you will carry this item through and hand it to my partner air-side) or simply go postal, or be a long-time plant or sleeper, which means they MUST be subject to searches to prevent them from carrying any of the otherwise disallowed items air-side. Hell, they don't even need to be suicide jockeys they can just plant the stuff for the suicide squad to pick up once they clear the security theatre as regular passengers!

      • Okay, then. Anal probes for everyone!

      • C'mon, think like a terrorist for a moment and realize that planes are safe from terrorist attacks, at least for now.

        Why?

        Because that's where you'd expect them to happen. And surprise is not only the most powerful weapon of the Spanish inquisition. One key element of terror is that you are not supposed to know when it strikes. That's one crucial part of it, maybe the most important one. Else it's just yet another mass murder. It's terror because it creates fear, not only because it creates a lot of bodies.

        T

  • by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Friday December 24, 2010 @09:47AM (#34659462)

    Wow. Airport 'security' is a joke, and almost everyone knows it; a Google search for "security theater" turns up over a half-million results. Yet this guy tells us something that we're all aware of already, and gets put throught the mill because of it. It's bad enough when people get crucified for revealing some hidden truth, but when it happens to someone who is simply stating the obvious, that's just sad.

    Just what ARE we paying these clowns for anyway? They should go back to allowing knitting needles on planes; pissed off Grandmas would probably deal with terrorists a whole lot more effectively than these clueless idiots.

  • For the new US national sport: Shooting the messenger.

  • Solved with dogs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info@@@devinmoore...com> on Friday December 24, 2010 @09:50AM (#34659498) Homepage Journal

    How much of this security theater can be solved with a bomb-sniffing dog? Instead of checking each new thing for a bomb and still not being able to find them, a dog can just smell the explosive wherever it happens to be hidden. But no, we don't want to do that, that's too obvious, cheap, and easy. We'd much rather have a 1000x more expensive, incomplete and cumbersome solution.

    • by thijsh (910751) on Friday December 24, 2010 @10:04AM (#34659574) Journal
      Real reason: Dog's are unpatentable.

      So you hit the nail on the head, exactly *because* these measures are 1000x more expensive is why they are being pushed... The smell of fear smells like profit to some.
      • Bomb sniffing dogs are effective, efficient and can be trained by many different companies/organizations.

        Scanners are expensive, inefficient but can only be supplied by a few companies.

        Follow the money.

    • Dogs seem to be mostly used for security theater themselves. Their false positive rate is probably too high for widespread use (though useful when an excuse is needed to scrutinize an individual), and the TSA doesn't seem like a very good source of people who could become handlers.
  • No expense or effort must be spared in burying the truth. The truth must be obscured under all conditions. There is nothing worse than truth bursting out. Freedom of suppression, the right to suppress the truth, must reign supreme.

  • Somewhere in all this talk about tERRORism there is a larger, hidden problem. It's plain before our faces, but most of the prominent stakeholders in the debate seem oblivious to it. But it is of capital importance that we find ways to bring this root problem out in the open and deal with it.

  • FTFA: "Late last month a 50-year-old pilot, who asked that his name and the airline he works for not be made public, took a series of videos with his cell phone to show major flaws he says still exist in airport security systems."

    Who wants to take bets that cell phones will now be required to be stowed in checked baggage, due to the "security threat" the camera phones pose?

  • let's see

    The 50-year-old pilot, who lives outside Sacramento, asked that neither he nor his airline be identified.
    He has worked for the airline for more than a decade and was deputized by the TSA to carry a gun in the cockpit.
    He is also a helicopter test pilot in the Army Reserve and flew missions for the United Nations in Macedonia.Sacramento-area pilot punished for YouTube video [news10.net]

    The sad part is it's probably more likely that two pilots have the same name then that same set of credentials.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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