The FBI won't tell you how its drone usage affects your privacy. It has withheld every page of its Privacy Impact Assessment from FOIA requesters. In fact, it now claims it can't even find the withheld document, so that avenue appears to be a dead end. The DOJ, which oversees the FBI, hasn't offered any further insight into its assorted agencies' drone usage (other than those forced out of its hands in relation to its justification for killing people with weaponized drones). It's been almost a decade since the first reported use of (non-killing surveillance) drones under the DOJ's watch, and only now do we get to see how it weighs citizens' privacy against the needs of law enforcement.
The undated "Policy Guidance" document asserts that unmanned surveillance is likely a net gain for Americans, seeing as law enforcement has used drones in kidnapping investigations, drug interdiction efforts and search-and-rescue operations. (It doesn't, however, make any mention of the OIG's determination that the FBI and ATF's drones are mostly useless and expensive.) But it lays down this "guidance" (which covers all agencies under its purview) with a comprehensive caveat.
This policy guidance is intended only to improve the internal management of the Department of Justice. It is not intended to and does not create any right, benefit, trust, or responsibility, whether substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, instrumentalities, entities, officers, employees, or agents, or any person, nor does it create any right of review in an administrative, judicial or any other proceeding.So, no matter what's claimed about the DOJ's concerns for privacy, nothing in this document can be used against it in court. Handy.
UAS may only be used in connection with properly authorized investigations and activities. Statutory authorities, the Attorney General's Guidelines, and other relevant agency policies and guidance define the scope of authorized investigations and activities and require regular supervisory review and approval. UAS must continue to be used within the context of these existing safeguards.The document warns that the intrusiveness of investigative techniques must be weighed against investigative "needs" and that law enforcement agents should opt for "least intrusive" rather than "most efficient." But, once again, this is left to their discretion, rather than held against any sort of baseline standard.
...unless retention of the information is determined to be necessary for an authorized purpose or is maintained in a system of records covered by the Privacy Act…In addition, the DOJ demands a form of accountability, one that begins with proper training and ends with demands for approval for relevant supervisors. What's not included in the discussion are the consequences for violations of these loose guidelines. There may not be any, other than whatever unspecified internal punishments will be handed out by agencies. The DOJ has already made a play for quasi-immunity -- at least in relation to its drone guidance -- by opting itself out of drone-related litigation with its opening footnote.
The United State's leading purveyor of packed-in-garages
stomach cement weight loss product can't be expected to let the merits of its offerings speak for themselves. I mean, it theoretically could allow this to happen, but it has already taken steps to ensure any positive reviews of its "gastric bypass alternatives" can only be viewed with skepticism.
Roca Labs will give purchasers a cut rate if they agree to proselytize on the company's behalf. Unhappy customers who tie themselves into this agreement are forced to display a public rictus or face additional withdrawals from their credit cards/bank accounts, as well as lawsuits for defamation and breach of contract. Those who pay the higher price initially are somewhat better off, although Roca Labs still seems intent on shutting down any negative portrayal of its products.
Given this background, it comes as no surprise that its courtroom tactics are just as surly and underhanded. A new motion for "case-terminating sanctions" has been filed in one of Roca's many, many lawsuits.
For the third time, Plaintiff and its attorney have engaged in unlawful witness intimidation. The prior times, this Court just told them not to do it again. They did not respect that warning. This time, Roca’s attorney is attempting to intimidate an expert witness from testifying by threatening criminal sanctions, and that threat has placed this witness in fear, requiring a rebuke from this Court sufficient to assuage his fears. A simple “don’t do it again” did not work last time. (Doc. # 17.) Defendants request a harsher rebuke from this Court, lest this continue.This lawsuit, brought in Florida's middle district, features Roca suing PissedConsumer for negative reviews. Roca is suing everyone involved, from the reviewers themselves to the company owning the company owning the PissedConsumer brand. In its voluminous discovery demands, Roca is seeking pretty much every detail about every involved entity, including innocuous business dealings and, weirdly, the account holder info behind some negative tweets.
This action began with a request from Roca for this Court to impose an unconstitutional prior restraint on Defendants, in the form of their Motion for Entry of a Temporary Injunction. In Defendants’ Opposition to this Motion, filed September 18, 2014, Defendants contacted Roca’s former customers and attached declarations from them detailing their experience with Roca’s products. Very shortly after Defendants filed their Opposition, Plaintiff contacted these witnesses with threats of litigation for breach of an unenforceable contract. This timing was anything but coincidental, and so Defendants then brought a motion for a temporary restraining order against Plaintiff to cease this witness intimidation. While the Court denied Defendants’ motion on September 23, 2014, it “remind[ed] the parties that it will not hesitate to impose sanctions on any party that engages in witness tampering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512.”This stern talking to didn't work. Roca sued the witness, as well as Randazza himself. Now, it's attempting to do the same thing to another potential witness, only going further by claiming (baselessly) that the witness could be subject to criminal charges.
Fast forward to May 2015. The parties have been in the process of attempting to schedule depositions prior to the discovery cutoff, including the deposition of Defendants’ expert witness Thomas Parisi, MD. Defendants’ counsel retained Dr. Parisi as an expert witness, and the two worked together to determine a fair expert billing rate for all parties to this action. (See Declaration of Marc J. Randazza [“Randazza Decl.”], attached as Exhibit 3, ¶¶ 2-7.)In defense of its actions, Roca Lab's lawyer, Paul Berger, claims Randazza somehow "fixed" the prices to make it, I don't know, prohibitively expensive? (Randazza has to pay the same amount for Parisi's testimony.) Berger's email is included in the exhibits, and it's filled with allegations that Parisi could do the work cheaper, and that Randazza drove the price up. Cited in support are the fact that Parisi closes his office at noon every Friday (Parisi's higher in-person rate cites having to close his office as justification for the increase), as well as the fact that the average Las Vegas vein surgeon makes $375,000 a year -- both of which seem mostly irrelevant to the issue at hand -- that issue being that expert witnesses are free to charge whatever they'd like for court appearances.
On May 22, 2015, Mr. Berger contacted Dr. Parisi by phone. (Declaration of Thomas Parisi [“Parisi Decl.”], attached as Exhibit 4, ¶ 8.) During this conversation, Mr. Berger asked Dr. Parisi about his expert witness billing rates, and Dr. Parisi informed him of them. (Parisi Decl. ¶ 9.) After being told of Dr. Parisi’s rates, Mr. Berger threatened him with criminal prosecution, stating that charging different rates for written testimony and trial testimony was “illegal” and that he would need to retain legal representation. (Parisi Decl. ¶ 10.) Berger went so far as to threaten Dr. Parisi with criminal prosecution. (Parisi Decl. ¶ 10.) Dr. Parisi felt intimidated and frightened by Mr. Berger’s threats, especially in light of Roca’s prior behavior. (Parisi Decl. ¶¶ 11-12, 15.) Dr. Parisi is hesitant to testify on Defendants’ behalf, specifically due to Mr. Berger’s threats. (Parisi Decl. ¶ XX.)
Any expert or skilled witness who shall have testified in any cause shall be allowed a witness fee including the cost of any exhibits used by such witness in an amount agreed to by the parties, and the same shall be taxed as costs. In instances where services are provided for the state, including for state-paid private court-appointed counsel, payment from state funds shall be in accordance with standards adopted by the Legislature.Here's Parisi's statement:
As with the majority of expert witnesses, I charge a different billable rate for research and preparation of written reports than I do for in-person testimony.Parisi's statement also points out that it's not out of the realm of the imagination that Roca Labs would follow through with its threat to bring criminal charges against him (or, at least, attempt to, despite having no basis for doing so) considering it has already sued an opposing counsel for statements made in court.
Part of the reason I charge a higher rate for in-person testimony is that when I am doing research and drafting reports, I can do that in the comfort of my home, during down-time, when I would otherwise not be working or spending time with my family. Therefore, for reports, I only charge $300 per hour.
For in-person testimony, I charge a minimum of $3,000 for a half day. This is because I must take my practice offline for that much time, if I am going to report to a court or a court reporter’s office. In addition, it requires me to shut down my clinic for a large portion of a given day, as I am the only doctor working at my clinic. Further, I find in person testimony to be unpleasant and undesirable, and while I am willing to do it for the right pay, I can think of no other activity that would be as unpleasant as being deposed.
It is my sworn testimony that Mr. Berger is lying in this email to Mr. Randazza, and that his statements regarding the contents of our phone conversation are not true. Mr. Berger’s statements are completely false, and seem calculated to try and create a rift between the defendants and myself.Now, whether Roca's threats were prompted by a desire to keep Parisi from testifying or simply because its
"The scariest thing is when you talk to your friends and they are repeating the same things you saw in the technical tasks, and you realize that all this is having an effect,? the former worker said."Interestingly, one of the workers at these factories was recently courageous enough to put her name in print. Journalist and single mother Lyuda Savchuk states she knew she was entering an "Orwellian universe" when she took the job, but found things notably worse than she ever imagined once inside:
"I knew it was something bad, but of course I never suspected that it was this horrible and this large-scale," she said in an interview in her apartment, which has colorful drawings on the walls for her two preschool-age children. She described how the trolls manage several social media accounts under different nicknames, such as koka-kola23, green--margo and Funornotfun. Those in her department had to bash out 160 blog posts during a 12-hour shift. Trolls in other departments flooded the Internet with doctored images and pro-Putin commentary on news stories that crop up on Russian and Western news portals."While the AP report states Savchuk quit, other reports suggest that she was fired only after speaking to the media. Not only that, Savchuk is suing the government, focusing on the lack of paperwork outlining her responsibilities or the reason for her firing (apparently the Russian government isn't keen on a paper trail). She's also organizing an activist retaliation to the propaganda efforts:
"The ?troll factory? operates based on very weird schemes, but all those firms are connected to each other, even though they are separate legal entities,? Savchuk was quoted as saying. Since her dismissal, Savchuk has been organising a public movement against online trolling called Informatsionny Mir ? a name that can be translated both as ?Information World? and "Information Peace." "There are both opposition activists and supporters of the government among us, but we all believe that such methods of information war are unacceptable,? she said."Several of the reports note that there has been a concerted effort to hire more English speaking trolls to try and influence thinking in the United States as well, as Russia gleefully annexes the Ukraine and tries to defend its atrocious positions on gay rights. Internet Research, the company that runs the operation and is owned by a friend of Putin, has also taken to hiring more Serbian trolls to try and pull Serbia off of its trajectory as a future EU member. As has long been the case, this propaganda operates hand in hand with the use of violence to silence opposition:
"When Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was killed in Moscow in late February, the Serbian trolls were quick to react. "Who is to gain from this assassination but America? It must have been CIA," was the dominant mantra that took hold in discussions on Serbian news sites. "Likes" went into the hundreds, while comments such as "Putin is responsible" received widespread ridicule."Putin's problem? Propaganda usually only works well when it's not easily identifiable as propaganda. Putin and friends appear to believe they can overcome this problem by simply operating on a massive scale, using not only its troll factories but tens of thousands of Twitter bots to shout nonsense from every internet street corner. Of course you'd like to think the pillars of truth have their roots in firmer bedrock, and on most of these issues (like gay rights) Putin's simply throwing money at a thunderstorm. But on other issues (like eroding support for Serbian EU integration or fostering support for Russia's invasion of the Ukraine), Putin's army of disinformation jackasses have been worryingly effective.
There are a lot of startups out there trying to become the "Uber of..." something, from valet parking to food delivery to dog-walking. But as much as this might look like mere bandwagon-hopping, it actually represents a fascinating and potentially important trend: the emergence of a new, highly efficient and flexible economy based around individuals offering on-demand services.
It's not just the US Marshals Service flying spy planes over the US, loaded with cameras and/or cell tower spoofers. The flying "dirtboxes" of the Marshals came to light last year, and were swiftly neither confirmed nor denied by DOJ spokespeople, who also noted the flights that may/may not be happening are all perfectly lawful and very much not the now-(temporarily)-expired Section 215 program. (I am not making that last part up.)
Consequently, it comes as no surprise that another DOJ agency -- the FBI -- is doing the same thing.
The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology — all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government, The Associated Press has learned.The AP investigation tracked down documents relating to the FBI's fleet of spy planes, ones that hide the FBI's aircraft behind corporate registrations (i.e., not as easily traceable to the US government) and a variety of three-letter shell companies.
The planes' surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge's approval, and the FBI said the flights are used for specific, ongoing investigations. The FBI said it uses front companies to protect the safety of the pilots and aircraft. It also shields the identity of the aircraft so that suspects on the ground don't know they're being watched by the FBI.
In a recent 30-day period, the agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country, an AP review found.
OTV LeasingA plane registered to PXW Services was spotted flying over Minneapolis, MN. The FBI may be able to hide its planes behind obviously phony companies, but it can't keep its flight data secret. The flights show obvious surveillance patterns, rather than giving any appearance of "normal" behavior.
NG Research (an exception!)
"The FBI's aviation program is not secret," spokesman Christopher Allen said in a statement. "Specific aircraft and their capabilities are protected for operational security purposes." Allen added that the FBI's planes "are not equipped, designed or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance."Except that mounting a camera on the plane (as seen on the FBI plane pictured in this article) or utilizing an airborne Stingray device provides the FBI the opportunity to do both.
The surveillance flights comply with agency rules, an FBI spokesman said. Those rules, which are heavily redacted in publicly available documents, limit the types of equipment the agency can use, as well as the justifications and duration of the surveillance.Then there's this:
The FBI asked the AP not to disclose the names of the fake companies it uncovered, saying that would saddle taxpayers with the expense of creating new cover companies to shield the government's involvement, and could endanger the planes and integrity of the surveillance missions. The AP declined the FBI's request because the companies' names — as well as common addresses linked to the Justice Department — are listed on public documents and in government databases.The fake companies used by the FBI can be "uncovered" through a simple Google search, which is how I arrived at the FAA's listings late last week, before the AP's story broke. (The line about the "expense" of dreaming up wholly-unimaginative "business" names and renting another block of PO Boxes is far too cute, though.) Sure, there's nothing explicitly linking the two (until now), but if the public can be watched in public areas, so too can the FBI's flights. All of this originated from tail numbers of planes seen circling overhead, the flight patterns of those planes and querying publicly-available databases. What's good for the FBI (no expectation of privacy in public areas) is good for the public. The FBI shouldn't be asking journalists to withhold publicly-available information, especially considering the only conceivable purpose it serves is to deprive the AP of evidence for its assertions.
?What you?re doing, essentially, is you?re playing national security Russian roulette,? one senior administration official said of allowing the powers to lapse. That prospect appears increasingly likely with the measure, the USA Freedom Act, stalled and lawmakers in their home states and districts during a congressional recess.And, now, of course, as you know, the various minor surveillance provisions have, in fact, expired, if only briefly, meaning that the programs are kinda, sorta no longer running (there are exceptions, other authorities and the ability to "grandfather" in some investigations... so...). Given all that ridiculous bluster last week, you'd think that the White House (now on the record, as opposed to hiding behind bogus "senior official" monikers) would be willing to come out and say that we're now less safe.
?We?re in uncharted waters,? another senior member of the administration said at a briefing organized by the White House, where three officials spoke with reporters about the consequences of inaction by Congress. ?We have not had to confront addressing the terrorist threat without these authorities, and it?s going to be fraught with unnecessary risk.?
Well, I don?t have any details to share about either ongoing or recently started national security investigations. What we?ve also acknowledged is true is that our national security professionals have other tools that they can use to conduct investigations. They don?t have tools that replace these critically -- these important authorities, but there are other tools that they can use to conduct investigations.First of all, the programs in question have not been shown to be "critical" or "important." The lone wolf provision has never even been used, and the 215 program (despite being illegal under 215 according to the 2nd Circuit appeals court) has been reviewed by multiple judges, Senate intelligence staffers and two separate White House advisory boards and was found not to have been useful in stopping a single domestic terrorist attack. So why does he keep claiming they're "critical" or "important"?
Q Just first, on the security of Americans right now. You weren?t able to comment about whether in these 13 hours there?s been any problems. But let?s go back, if we can, in history here. Can you point to anything in the past that would not have been successful under these current conditions? Is there somebody we would not have caught? Is there something that you could explain to Americans why this is so important, using history?Got that? He can't say if they've actually been useful (because they haven't), but he can say, without providing any details, that some information obtained under these programs was "information they were not previously aware of." But, again, if that's the standard under which these things are judged, you can authorize just about any program at all. That's not the point. The standard needs to be (1) does the program obey the Constitution and (2) is it critical to investigations. These programs have failed on both accounts.
MR. EARNEST: Well, there are -- probably not in as much detail as will satisfy you right at the top here, but I think I can offer up two compelling reasons why our national security professionals say that having these authorities is important to the national security of the country.
The first is that there are recent examples -- I can?t go into those examples -- but recent examples where our national security professionals say that information that they obtained using these authorities was information that they were not previously aware of. And that?s an indication that these authorities have succeeded in eliciting information that?s been critical to ongoing investigations.
The second thing is that the way that our investigators talk about this information is that these pieces of information as they?re collected are critically important building blocks to an investigation. And what that means is it means that a clearer picture is provided when you put a variety of pieces of information together; that as it fits together, you get a clearer sense of what it is that you?re investigating.
Q So I think what many in the public might want to really hear from the White House is, on a scale of one to ten, how much less safe are we today than we were on Saturday?Okay, so that's not answering the question. And then Earnest goes into silly town:
MR. EARNEST: Well, that is something that our national security professionals can speak more directly to. I think the way that I would characterize it is simply this, Jim -- that we have these authorities that were included in the Patriot Act, the majority of which are not controversial and have been in place since 2001, and as our national security professionals tell us, have been used to elicit information that?s been valuable to ongoing national security investigations.
And so the question that you?ve heard me offer up a few times from the podium here over the last week or so is simply, why would we add unnecessary risk to the country and our national security because of Congress?s failure to act?1. Because the existing program is unconstitutional. And 2. Because there is no evidence that it adds any unnecessary risk -- as shown by the fact that even you won't say that we're any less safe today than in the past.
Q Good to see you. You didn?t answer Jim?s question about the 1 to 10 point scale. But just to really put it bluntly, are the American people clearly less safe today than they were last week?That same reporter then follows it up by pointing to CIA director John Brennan's fearmongering about what will happen, to ask the question another way. And, again, Earnest employs his expertise in tap dancing:
MR. EARNEST: Well, again, that is a judgment that one of our national security professionals could make based on their own efforts to investigate this.
Q Right, but you went through this whole list of things that are not available now. It sounds that the implication of that is that we are less safe now than we were just a day or two ago.
MR. EARNEST: Well, again, I?ll let people draw whatever conclusion they would like. But the one -- the fact that I can confirm for you is that there are specific tools that our national security professionals have previously used to conduct national security investigations that they can, as of today, no longer use because of the partisan dysfunction in the United States Senate.
Q CIA Director Brennan said over the weekend that if the law lapsed, and of course it now has, the FBI would lose the ability to track people intent on carrying out attacks on the homeland. Is that correct?Except those tools are not critical. He keeps saying they are, even though everyone who's looked at them has said otherwise.
MR. EARNEST: Well, I'm certainly not going to contradict the Director of the CIA --
Q So we have lost the ability for -- the FBI has lost the ability to track people who are intent on carrying out attacks on the homeland?
MR. EARNEST: Well, there are a variety of tools that are used by our national security professionals to conduct both law enforcement and national security investigations. But what is clear is that there are tools that are critical to that effort that are no longer available -- or at least as of today are no available to our national security professionals.
MR. EARNEST: Well, there have been a number of pronouncements and accusations that have been lobbed by those who aspire to occupy the Oval Office in early 2017. And I'm not going to get into a -- I?ve done my best to try to avoid getting into a back and forth with any of them on a specific issue. So while I obviously disagree with the sentiments expressed by Senator Graham, I don?t have an interest in getting into a back and forth with him at this point.Hmm. So, it appears that he's saying that we're not, in fact, less safe, after refusing to answer that question directly, and he "doesn't agree" with Graham's comments that we are less safe.
Q So we?re not less safe today?
MR. EARNEST: I obviously don?t agree with what Senator Graham had to say today in kicking off his campaign.
Q People who are opposed to certain parts of the Patriot Act have been pretty explicit in outlining these ways that they didn?t really help certain cases, or that there are other methods to get the same information. But conversely, you and the administration, you can?t list or won?t list any concrete examples of how it did help; you won?t say whether the American public is less safe now. If this is so important, doesn?t your argument seem to be weaker than those in opposition? And isn?t that contributing to the controversy that?s out there?What? "As honest and forthright and candid about these programs and about the impact that they have on our national security"? Is he joking? The administration has been nothing but unclear, dishonest and misleading about all of those things -- and that's continued in this very press briefing. The programs have been conclusively proven not to be useful (and likely not to be constitutional), yet he keeps insisting they're "critical" or "important." And then, after fearmongering about what would happen if they expired, the administration refuses to now say we're "less safe" because of the political baggage that would entail.
MR. EARNEST: That certainly is not the conclusion of 338 Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives who came together around a common-sense bipartisan proposal that would implement reforms, that would strengthen civil liberties protections while also reauthorizing tools that our national security professionals say are important to keeping us safe.
I think the other thing that?s true is that we?ve heard a lot of claims on the other side of this argument that haven?t borne out to be true. And there has been an effort on the part of the administration, even given the constraints that we have about talking about classified or highly sensitive national security programs, to be as honest and forthright and candid about these programs and about the impact that they have on our national security.
Q But when we keep talking about national security, you use the word ?safe? almost every other word in some of your statements. So if you feel so strongly about some of these programs without being able to give any concrete examples of them working, why can?t you at least say that the American public is less safe without them? It almost seems like you?re going just up to that point. Do you feel that way or don?t you feel that way?In other words, the President won't say we're less safe, because (1) it's not true and (2) it's not politically feasible (or, really, reverse that order), but I'll point you to the fearmongerers in charge who want more power, because they'll say just about anything to get more powers to spy on Americans.
MR. EARNEST: Well, I would encourage you to ask some of our national security professionals. You?ve heard the FBI Director, Jim Comey, talk about how important these tools are to their work. I saw that the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, was on Chip?s network over the weekend, talking about how these programs and these authorities were integral to the efforts of the intelligence community. So I would defer to those professionals. They can give you the best assessment.
All I can say is -- make the simple, fact-based observation that there are tools that our national security professionals say are important to their work that today they don?t have because of a bunch of Republican senators who played politics with these issue over the last couple of weeks.
Q I want to just follow up on something Michelle asked you. I?ve seen you be very forceful about a number of issues, but I also can tell when you?re being careful. It seems to me when you won?t just come out and say ?we are less safe,? there?s a reason behind it. And I?m just wondering, is it because, frankly, we?re not less safe because the Patriot Act provisions have elapsed? Are we basically the same because there are plenty of other tools available already?Once again, this is all just political theater. Everyone knows that these provisions are not critical and not necessary, and having them expire is more symbolic than anything else. But no one seems to be willing to flat out call the administration's bluff here. It insisted these programs were necessary and now that they're gone, no one is any less safe at all.
MR. EARNEST: Well, Kevin, all I can do is I can illustrate to you very clearly that there are tools that had previously been available to our national security professionals that are not available today because the Senate didn?t do their job, because we saw Republicans in the Senate engage in a lot of political back and forth as opposed to engaging in the critically important work of the country.
And as a result, there are programs and tools that our national security professionals themselves say are important to their work that are not available to them right now as we speak. And that?s why we urge the Senate to set aside the politicking and actually focus on their basic responsibility. And we?re hopeful that they will vote in favor of the common-sense, bipartisan reform proposal that?s already passed the House of Representatives.
"According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General?s report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints. In one test an undercover agent was stopped after setting off an alarm at a magnetometer, but TSA screeners failed to detect a fake explosive device that was taped to his back during a follow-on pat down. Officials would not divulge the exact time period of the testing other than to say it concluded recently."That's not just a little dysfunction, that's a wholesale systemic breakdown, and it once again raises the question of what precisely taxpayers are paying for. And while the TSA is quick to consistently insist it's making improvements every day, this is effectively the same thing that happened last year when a "red team" member was able to smuggle a mock bomb onto an airplane. This latest survey also piggybacks on earlier reports that indicate no matter how much money we throw at the TSA, it's still awful at doing its job, whether that's passenger or luggage screening:
"That review found ?vulnerabilities? throughout the system, attributing them to human error and technological failures, according to a three-paragraph summary of the review released in September. In addition, the review determined that despite spending $540 million for checked baggage screening equipment and another $11 million for training since a previous review in 2009, the TSA failed to make any noticeable improvements in that time."Great job, team! Of course, whenever you find this level of dysfunction you can usually find a dodgy money trail -- since just like nation destroying and rebuilding -- presenting the illusion of security is extremely profitable. That likely won't be getting better anytime soon, with a lobbyist for Rapiscan Systems (the company that provides the controversial X-ray scanners used in most major airports) taking a job with the House Appropriations Committee's Homeland Security Subcommittee, which oversees the TSA budget. We've been talking about Rapiscan's overly-cozy relationship with government for five years now.
"This leads to a counter-intuitive result that the TSA is really not stopping any danger. If guns and bombs are getting on planes, but planes aren't falling out of the sky, it must mean that they aren't a danger. I point this out because in the end, safety is an emotional thing rather than logical. No matter how much I do the math, people do not believe it. They believe bombs are a danger to airplanes in much the same way many don't believe the safety statistics compared to driving."Note that's not to say we don't the need the hidden and not-so-hidden security apparatus that exists outside of this costly new game of make believe. But these latest findings continue to prop up the argument that the TSA is a glorified high school theater troupe playing dress up, doing little more than adding a very expensive layer of dysfunction to the already frequently-dismal air travel experience.