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TSA Facing Death By a Thousand Cuts 493

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-bleed-more-than-3.5-ounces dept.
OverTheGeicoE writes "The Transportation Security Administration is getting a lot of negative attention, much of it from the U.S. government itself. A recent congressional report blasted the TSA for being incompetent and ineffective (PDF). A bill to force the TSA to reduce its screening of active duty U.S. military members and their families was approved unanimously by the House of Representatives. After a TSA employee was arrested for sexually assaulting a woman while in uniform, a bill has been introduced to prevent TSA agents from wearing police-style uniforms and badges or using the title 'officer.' The bill's sponsor calls these practices 'an insult to real cops.' The FBI is getting involved by changing its definition of rape in a way that might expose the TSA's 'enhanced pat-down' screeners to prosecution. Lastly, public support for the TSA's use of X-ray body scanners drops dramatically when people realize there is a cancer risk."
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TSA Facing Death By a Thousand Cuts

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  • by Qzukk (229616) on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:38PM (#38319420) Journal

    Now if only America wasn't tied down in the pit underneath it.

  • Friggen finally (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:38PM (#38319422)

    Must be an election year coming up, because the government's actually doing shit about stuff we've been complaining about for the past... two, three years?

  • About Time! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by houstonbofh (602064) on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:42PM (#38319468)
    The TSA is the only agency hated more that the IRS. Considering the head start the IRS had, that is an impressive achievement!
    • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JabberWokky (19442) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:53PM (#38319596) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, but despite being created to pay for the Civil War, and then being found unconstitutional, they tossed in the 16th amendment to keep the IRS going. Wonder how long it will be before a TSA amendment is passed. "For the good of the Homeland and Security unto the people under its care..."

      • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by peragrin (659227) on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:59PM (#38319644)

        The IRS brings Income in.

        The TSA is spending it like a waterfall on stuff that even DARPA says doesn't work and shouldn't be funded.

        The TSa will soon become another under funded agency.

        • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:26PM (#38320012)

          The TSA is spending it like a waterfall on stuff that even DARPA says doesn't work

          I actually laughed!

          Yes, you know you're venturing into fantasy land when DARPA is calling you out for being too out there.

        • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by 517714 (762276) on Friday December 09, 2011 @06:03PM (#38320480)
          No, the Department of Homeland Security needs the TSA. It operates the TSA as a distraction for the American people so they can quietly erode our liberties without being bothered. Do you think its an accident that they pick on a 84 year old lady in adult diapers? Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Nothing to see here, please move along. Look! Shiny!
      • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Osiris Ani (230116) on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:14PM (#38319844)

        "For the good of the Homeland and Security unto the people under its care..."

        "An evil exists that threatens every man, woman, and child of this great nation. We must take steps to ensure our domestic security and protect our Homeland."

        And thus, the Gestapo was formed, and there was much rejoicing.

        • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Informative)

          by gblfxt (931709) on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:51PM (#38320334)

          "Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. ...voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

          Hermann Göring

      • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DesScorp (410532) <.DesScorp. .at. .Gmail.com.> on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:28PM (#38320046) Homepage Journal

        Yeah, but despite being created to pay for the Civil War, and then being found unconstitutional, they tossed in the 16th amendment to keep the IRS going. Wonder how long it will be before a TSA amendment is passed. "For the good of the Homeland and Security unto the people under its care..."

        You don't need amendments anymore. You'll never see another amendment to the Constitution again, because all you need are some judges that will rule your way. Changing the Constitution is hard, and it was supposed to be hard. It's much easier to get some judges to declare that up really means down. This is the danger of the whole "living Constitution" idea. If the Constitution is as pliable as putty, then it's really just a matter of whose hands the putty is in.

    • by Volante3192 (953645) on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:59PM (#38319642)

      Not true. Congress has an approval rating lower than the IRS.

      http://gawker.com/5860272/the-irs-is-more-than-four-times-more-popular-than-congress [gawker.com]

      (Yeah, yeah, the IRS rating is from 2009, just enjoy it you nitpicking bastards.)

      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        Not too surprising. The IRS just takes our money. I can respect that, to a degree. Congress not only takes it, they also spend it, and then tell us how we can and cannot spend whatever is left over. And then they form the TSA to molest us and take naked pictures of us in airports.

    • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2011 @06:32PM (#38320810)

      The TSA is the only agency hated more that the IRS. Considering the head start the IRS had, that is an impressive achievement!

      Agreed. A big reason I hate TSA never seems to be reported on: theft. I'm a frequent flyer (several times per month) for over a decade now, so I have a good sample size here. Ever since TSA was created, I've regularly had shit stolen from my luggage. I never had this happen to me a single time before TSA. It's so bad I never check in my bag unless I absolutely have to, but sometimes I have no choice. Last year, for example, when coming home for Christmas, some jackass in TSA stole all the Christmas presents I bought for my family that I had to put in my check-in bag. I've given up on reporting this because they just don't care. I've never had any thing stolen out of my luggage returned to me and never been given any indication that there was any follow up. I doubt they even report it for their statistics.

      • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by vix86 (592763) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @08:08AM (#38324918)
        This was brought up on here once before and there was a good solution to this. Go get yourself a gun carrying license first. Get a gun or simply by a part of a gun, like the barrel. Get a gun carrying case with a lock. Also get a heavy duty lock for your bag. When you travel and don't want something stolen from your bag, bring the piece. Tell the counter you are checking a gun (part). Even gun pieces are treated like a whole gun. If TSA wants to check the bag they will need to do it while in front of you, after that you can lock the suit case and they won't be able to open the suitcase after that. This is the gist of it.

        I don't know how posted this, but I read it on here and found it to be a very good idea.
    • by Greyfox (87712) on Friday December 09, 2011 @07:57PM (#38321638) Homepage Journal
      The IRS never fondled my balls. Actually, if they did, I might like them more.
  • Hm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:43PM (#38319478)

    'an insult to real cops.'

    Perhaps, if they way cops keep handling these occupy movements are any indication, they don't need any help making themselves look bad.

  • by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:44PM (#38319502)
    How many terrorist have they caught? The same amount as my pet rock. Comparing the 'terrorist caught/money spent' ratio of pet rocks vs. the entirety of the TSA, if I were a venture capitalist I'd be looking for the next bright mind to bring these geological vanguards to market. They'd do at least a good job as the TSA, cost less, and as an added bonus airports might be more enjoyable. And they don't infringe on civil liberties. And they don't pretend to effect powers they do not really have. And they will not unionize.

    Motherfucking pet rocks are more efficient than the TSA.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:56PM (#38319612)

      Motherfucking pet rocks are more efficient than the TSA.

      With the added advantage pet rocks keep tigers away too.

      Number of terrorists caught by the TSA - ZERO. Number of US Constitutional violations are literally countless and purposely obfuscated. Number of government agency charters which were illegally violated with the creation of Homeland Security, ALL of whom Homeland Security now oversees. Would Homeland Security been able to stop 9/11 today? Absolutely not! The SOLE purpose of Homeland Security is dirty tricks, dirty politics, funnel massive funds into the top 1%, and to "legally" violate the US Constitution.

      If our Founding Fathers were alive and in power right now, most of the US government would literally be hanging from a tree or stand in front of a firing squad right now. And that's not hyperbole.

      If you support Dems or Republican parties, you hate America and spit on our Founding Fathers.

    • by stms (1132653)

      They'd do at least a good job as the TSA, cost less, and as an added bonus airports might be more enjoyable. And they don't infringe on civil liberties. And they don't pretend to effect powers they do not really have. And they will not unionize.

      You forgot to mention a pet rock will only sexually assault you if you want it to.

    • by Gonzoman (39290) <pjgeorgeNO@SPAMsasktel.net> on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:45PM (#38320236)

      The terrorists do no need a successful attack, only an attempt.

      I really think that there is someone orchestrating these attacks with a bizarre sense of humour. He gets some idiot to put a bomb in his shoe and now you need to take your shoes off to fly. So then he gets another idiot to put a bomb in his underwear and now full body scans. I can't wait to see what's next.

      I think it was Mao who said that if your enemy is not by nature oppressive, you must force him to become so. Somebody has read the book.

    • by jfengel (409917) on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:46PM (#38320260) Homepage Journal

      The goal of the TSA isn't to catch terrorists. Only the most egregiously stupid terrorists would be caught by the TSA.

      The goal of the TSA is to discourage terrorists from even trying. The TSA's effectiveness could be measured not by "how many terrorists are caught" (zero) but by "how many terrorists have succeed" (also zero).

      The tiger-repelling-rock analogy is specious: you know for a fact that there aren't any tigers around here. You don't know how many terrorists there are. Zero? Ten? Ten thousand?

      It's not zero. While the TSA hasn't caught any, the FBI has. How many of those terrorists would have attempted to use airplanes, if the TSA hadn't been there? I honestly can't tell you: most of the ones the FBI has caught were ass-clowns who were probably going to blow themselves up before they left their driveways. And we don't know how many terrorists gave up before they even started.

      What's perplexing is why they haven't shifted to softer targets. The TSA, overzealous as it is, makes airplanes too hard to attack, but there are millions of other, better targets. A bomb on a commuter rail would cause a whole lot of mayhem with a far lower chance of getting caught. The TSA can't claim credit for that.

      But I don't doubt that they deserve at least a little credit for the zero attacks on planes since 9/11. We know at least some wanted to try.

      • by BCoates (512464) on Friday December 09, 2011 @06:09PM (#38320552)

        The number of terrorism attempts since the TSA has started isn't zero, the underwear and shoe bombers off the top of my head. The TSA has missed all of them.

      • What's perplexing is why they haven't shifted to softer targets. The TSA, overzealous as it is, makes airplanes too hard to attack, but there are millions of other, better targets.

        It's not perplexing. Terrorists act by (duh) creating terror. Body count is simply a means to that end. The fact is, we've done such a great job at overcompensating, we're doing their job for them. We're still terrified. Heck, simply saying you're going to build a mosque makes half this country pee their pants!

        So, no, it's no

      • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Friday December 09, 2011 @10:07PM (#38322442)

        What's perplexing is why they haven't shifted to softer targets

        They have. Off the top of my head -

        - London Underground Bombing
        - Madrid Train Bombing
        - Bali Night Club Bombing
        - Mumbai Hotel Attack
        - Times Square Bomber (foiled)
        - Oslo, Norway Shootings
        - Moscow Theatre Attack

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:48PM (#38319536) Journal
    The headline might as well read "Agency universally reviled as useless, degrading, expensive, criminal, nobody has the nerve to do more than nibble around its edges."

    If what they've done so far has earned them only these relatively feeble stabs at powers they mostly just took during their time anyway(they didn't used to dress up in cop costumes or grope people on the record), exactly what would they have to do to earn a reorganization, or even a replacement? Execute a randomly chosen passenger once a shift, just to show the terrorists our resolve?
    • Execute a randomly chosen passenger once a shift, just to show the terrorists our resolve?

      One tenth of a flight. It worked for the Romans!

    • by swb (14022)

      I can't imagine what kind of deliverable they can actually provide -- it's not credible to claim they've prevented all terrorism, and unfortunately where maybe they have, I'm sure the FBI/NSA/CIA wants it kept totally quiet so they can do whatever counter-terrorism investigation they do, keeping the TSA from taking any kind of credit.

      What they need to do is have credible claims for effectiveness AND be as totally invisible as possible. You should "go through security" at the airport with less impact than g

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:50PM (#38319566)

    After a TSA employee was arrested for sexually assaulting a woman while in uniform

    You see, this is why I take my uniform off first. But they make a fuss about that too.

  • by Jethro (14165) on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:02PM (#38319688) Homepage

    I misread that as "Death By A Thousand Cats".

    Which would be a lot more fun to watch.

    Also thought it was a Babylon 5 reference

  • by wickerprints (1094741) on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:09PM (#38319780)

    The TSA is a bureaucratic, money-sucking nightmare that entirely fails to live up to the promises of the politicians who created it. It is incompetently managed and its policies are inept, ineffective, capricious, opaque, invasive, disrespectful, and I would argue they are also fundamentally unconstitutional.

    All that said, though, the question remains: if the TSA were to vanish overnight, what would take its place? What SHOULD take its place? These are not easy questions to answer--if they were, we'd be on that path by now, but instead the Kabuki dance that is this "security theater" gets more bizarre by the day. The reality is that certain fundamental questions of how best to address and ensure basic passenger safety without infringing on essential personal liberties remain unanswered, let alone the question of how to do it efficiently (both in terms of financial cost and human resources). Of course that is not to say no ideas have been proposed, but the point is that we've let the genie out of the bottle and we cannot go back to the way things were done before. The TSA may or may not have to be dismantled, but something must serve the function of providing basic safety. After all, our corporate overlords who pull the puppet strings of our politicians, can't seem to stop meddling with foreign countries, so it seems unlikely that the rest of the world will soon stop hating us.

    • by hedwards (940851) on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:27PM (#38320024)

      It's not the TSA so much as it is the DHS. It's inherently problematic to give an agency responsible for both defining the problem and solving it. It's not surprising that the scope has been ever increasing when decreasing the scope would result in layoffs and budget cuts for itself.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:27PM (#38320032)

      I don't care. There are two things necessary to prevent another 9/11:

      1) Strengthen the door to the cockpit.
      2) Have the passengers beat the living shit out of hijackers rather than comply and wait for the authorities to negotiate.

      Both changes were accomplished immediately right after 9/11.

    • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Friday December 09, 2011 @06:04PM (#38320492)

      The TSA is a bureaucratic, money-sucking nightmare that entirely fails to live up to the promises of the politicians who created it. It is incompetently managed and its policies are inept, ineffective, capricious, opaque, invasive, disrespectful, and I would argue they are also fundamentally unconstitutional. All that said, though, the question remains: if the TSA were to vanish overnight, what would take its place? What SHOULD take its place? These are not easy questions to answer

      That's a very easy question to answer. We go back to the same system we had before 9/11. When you went through a simple x-ray and metal detector, were allowed to take liquids through, and your family could accompany you to the gate.

      Security was plenty sufficient back then. Case in point, the terrorists didn't manage to sneak guns or bombs in, they had box cutters. There are two fundamental changes that we've already made which plugs the 9/11 security hole: cockpit doors are locked and passengers no longer believe sitting down and waiting for the hijacking to be resolved through negotiations by the authorities is the best strategy. A few people armed with knives can't subdue a whole plane of passengers or take over if they can't get into the cockpit.

  • by BMOC (2478408) on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:16PM (#38319882)

    Federal Agencies never die, they just get re-spun with more responsibility so they can then complain for more funding when their current responsibilities are abandoned.

    The examples given in this slashdot article are not cuts, they amount to normal civil-servant bashing and behavior. The only thing surprising is that the unionization of TSA workers isn't the most frightening thing imaginable.

    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:44PM (#38320224)
      Of course not, that is not how bureaucracy works. For those who have never seen it, here is a story that explains how bureaucracy works:
      Once upon a time the government had a vast scrap yard in the middle of a desert. Congress said, "Someone may steal from it at night." So they created a night watchman position and hired a person for the job at minimum wage for a budget of $25,000. Then Congress said, "How does the watchman do his job without instruction?" So they created a planning department and hired two people, one person to write the instructions and one person to do time studies. Departmental budget $150,000.Then Congress said, "How will we know the night watchman is doing the tasks correctly?" So they created a Quality Control department and hired two people, one to do the studies and one to write the reports. Additional Department budget $200,000. Then Congress said, "How are these people going to get paid?" So they created two positions, a time keeper and a payroll officer, then hired two people. Additional Departmental budget $300,000Then Congress said, "Who will be accountable for all of these people?" So they created an administrative section and hired three people, an Administrative Officer, an Assistant Administrative Officer, and a Legal Secretary with office space, travel allowance, and yearly training seminars. Additional Departmental budget $750,000.Then Congress said, "We have had this entire department in operation for one year, and we are $1,400,000 over budget. We must cut back." So they laid off the night watchman.
  • Long overdue (Score:4, Interesting)

    by oDDmON oUT (231200) on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:18PM (#38319904)

    The bastards burglarized my luggage the first time I flew after the agency went live.
    Fedex has gotten a lot of business ever since.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:27PM (#38320022)

    The FBI is getting involved by changing its definition of rape in a way that might expose the TSA's 'enhanced pat-down' screeners to prosecution.

    Stop the presses. When did enforcement agencies get to write laws? Are they just changing the in-house definition? So it'll be like "FBI internal policy says I have to arrest you, but you'll get off scott free because the law says something different"? This is not a good thing. It sets a precedent that things like "standing in a public area" could be made "illegal" per internal FBI mandate, allowing them to arrest you for literally anything over and over again, while never facing a jury. I'm all for ending the TSA feel-ups, but this is *not* the way to do it.

  • by Leebert (1694) * on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:43PM (#38320204)

    A bill to force the TSA to reduce its screening of active duty U.S. military members and their families was approved unanimously by the House of Representatives.

    This is silly. Either you do screening, or you don't. Complete ineptness of the TSA aside for argument's sake, if you take the concept of operations for the TSA at its face they're not just looking for active and willing attackers, they're also looking for unwitting attackers. (That's why you screen Grandma in her wheelchair -- How does Grandma know nobody slipped an explosive onto her person or possessions somehow without her realizing it?)

    If you're allowing military through, why not the 800,000 people with TS clearances? Or police? Or...? And how do you know that the person is a member of the military? And even if they are, it's not a foregone conclusion that they're automatically safe. (Nidal Malik Hasan? Hasan Akba?)

    Screen everyone or screen no one. You're hard-pressed to make a rational risk argument if you're not doing that.

  • by codeAlDente (1643257) on Friday December 09, 2011 @07:39PM (#38321478)
    Flying is statistically safer than driving. People like me are choosing to drive long distances because they do not want their children subjected to enhanced pat-downs (or is it pats-down?). Statistically, more people driving longer distances should cause more injuries and death due to traffic accidents. Any slashdotters have an estimate of the expected increase in fatalities, or perhaps an effect that might counter this increase? Either way, I wish they'd just respect the 4th amendment.
  • by dbIII (701233) on Friday December 09, 2011 @09:03PM (#38322080)
    I know the security theatre I'm hearing about in the US airports has kept me away for the last decade. On two occasions I found ways to get around going there for work trips and at another point decided the USA may not be such a fun place for a holiday at the time. The TSA would find me boring but I'm sure they would still find some ways to make my visit unpleasant.
    That's just my opinion but I've got an idea that others share it.

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.

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