The Transportation Security Administration is expanding its screening of passengers before they arrive at the airport by searching a wide array of government and private databases that can include records like car registrations and employment information.
Mr. Darrat said the SSSS printed on his boarding pass meant he had to have enhanced screening.
"Perhaps the increased privacy intrusions by the TSA is indicative of how desperate they are to finally catch a real terrorist (since they have yet to do so)."
Mark, Saint Charles, MO
While the agency says that the goal is to streamline the security procedures for millions of passengers who pose no risk, the new measures give the government greater authority to use travelers’ data for domestic airport screenings. Previously that level of scrutiny applied only to individuals entering the United States.
The prescreening, some of which is already taking place, is described in documents the T.S.A. released to comply with government regulations about the collection and use of individuals’ data, but the details of the program have not been publicly announced.
It is unclear precisely what information the agency is relying upon to make these risk assessments, given the extensive range of records it can access, including tax identification number, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, and law enforcement or intelligence information.
The measures go beyond the background check the government has conducted for years, called Secure Flight, in which a passenger’s name, gender and date of birth are compared with terrorist watch lists. Now, the search includes using a traveler’s passport number, which is already used to screen people at the border, and other identifiers to access a system of databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.
Privacy groups contacted by The New York Times expressed concern over the security agency’s widening reach.
“I think the best way to look at it is as a pre-crime assessment every time you fly,” said Edward Hasbrouck, a consultant to the Identity Project, one of the groups that oppose the prescreening initiatives. “The default will be the highest, most intrusive level of search, and anything less will be conditioned on providing some additional information in some fashion.”
The T.S.A., which has been criticized for a one-size-fits-all approach to screening travelers, said the initiatives were needed to make the procedures more targeted.
“Secure Flight has successfully used information provided to airlines to identify and prevent known or suspected terrorists or other individuals on no-fly lists from gaining access to airplanes or secure areas of airports,” the security agency said in a statement. “Additional risk assessments are used for those higher-risk passengers.”
An agency official discussed some aspects of the initiative on the condition that she not be identified. She emphasized that the main goal of the program was to identify low-risk travelers for lighter screening at airport security checkpoints, adapting methods similar to those used to flag suspicious people entering the United States.
Anyone who has never traveled outside the United States would not have a passport number on file and would therefore not be subject to the rules that the agency uses to determine risk, she said, although documents indicate that the agency is prescreening all passengers in some fashion.
The official added that these rules consider things like an individual’s travel itinerary, length of stay abroad and type of travel document, like a passport. If an airline has a traveler’s passport number on file, it is required to share that information with the T.S.A., even for a domestic flight.
The agency also receives a code indicating a passenger is a member of the airline’s frequent-flier program and has access to details about past travel reservations, known as passenger name records. This official could not confirm if that information was being used to assess a passenger’s risk.
The effort comes as the agency is trying to increase participation in its trusted traveler program, called PreCheck, that allows frequent fliers to pass through security more quickly after submitting their fingerprints and undergoing a criminal-background check.
DHS IG Report: Convicted Felon Allowed To Use TSA Pre-Check Line
Had Not Been Pre-Screened, But Boarding Pass Had Encrypted Barcode Allowing Him To Use The Expedited Process
The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security has released a report detailing a situation in which a convicted felon who was also a former member of a domestic terror group to use the TSA Pre-Check line at a U.S. airport.
The redacted report does not identify the traveler or the airport. According to the report's summary, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) received a whistleblower disclosure alleging a sufficiently notorious convicted felon was improperly cleared for TSA Pre-Check screening, creating a significant aviation security breach.
The disclosure identified this event as a possible error in the TSA Secure Flight program since the traveler’s boarding pass contained a TSA Pre-Check indicator and encrypted barcode. On October 16, 2014, OSC referred this allegation to the Secretary of Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
According to the report, the traveler is a former member of a domestic terrorist group. While a member, the traveler was involved in numerous felonious criminal activities that led to arrest and conviction. After serving a multiple-year sentence, the traveler was released from prison.
The IG determined that the person in question was not granted Pre-Check screening through TSA's application program. It also found that the TSO followed standard operating procedures, but "did not feel empowered to redirect the traveler from TSA Pre-Check screening to standard lane screening." According to the report, "the traveler did not demonstrate physical or verbal signs that would result in action based on the TSO's understanding of articulable belief." The IG's report recommends TSA modify standard operating procedures to clarify TSO and supervisory TSO authority to refer passengers with TSA Pre-Check boarding passes to standard screening lanes when they believe the passenger may be a threat to transportation security.
RKittine wrote:I do not know how my name ended up in the TSA record allowing expedited security clearance, but it did. Was very nice on my recent trip going into a special line, not having to remove my laptop, shoes or coat. The TSA people during both going out and coming back, where more pleasant then many I have experienced in the past. Not as good as the old days but certainly better than it has been. Even was able to bring my Tupperware container of Horseradish, Lemon and Lime Juice, Celery Salt, Beef Bullion, Olive Juice and Salt and Pepper to mix up my own Bloody Mary's on the flight.
The agents, a male and female who have not been named, are accused of manipulating security equipment at the airport to ensure the male agent could pat down “attractive” male passengers without drawing suspicion of improper behavior, according to a Denver police report.
TSA Records Detail Alleged Sexual Assaults of Travelers at Three U.S. Airports
'FOIA lawsuit produces 58 pages of TSA documents showing alleged sexual assaults on men and women at Denver International, Chicago O’Hare, and Los Angeles International airports
(Washington, DC) - Judicial Watch announced today it obtained 58 pages of records from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that detail alleged sexually-related assaults on passengers by TSA personnel at three major U.S. international airports. The documents describe incidents at Denver International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and Chicago O'Hare International Airport.
The documents were released in response to a July 11, 2014, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:14-cv-01179)). The lawsuit was filed after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) failed to respond to a March 5, 2014, FOIA request seeking:
Any and all passenger complaint forms (referred to as "yellow cards"), "To From" memoranda and Incident Reports filed in 2013 at the following US airports: Dulles International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Miami International Airport, and Los Angeles International Airport …
The TSA documents show that passengers strenuously objected to the alleged sexually-related assaults, repeatedly saying they were "shocked," "violated," and "humiliated." In one incident, a passenger reported that TSA officers, and "even the Supervisor … began to roar with laughter at the alleged sexual assault." In other incidents, a breast cancer survivor reported she felt as if she had been raped. And an elderly passenger with a colostomy bag said she felt violated after being informed by a TSA agent that she had to "touch her bag so I could then touch her hands.
The incident reports from the official TSA documents include:
- April 7, 2013, at Denver International Airport:
At approximately 14:10 hours on the South Checkpoint, near lane 4 a passenger complained that he sustained an injury resulting from the aggressive actions of the the [sic] TSO [Transportation Security Officer] conducting a pat down search…The passenger stated during the pat-down search he was struck very hard in the groin area, which caused him pain to his left testical [sic].
- October 19, 2013, “TSA Contact Center Record,” Los Angeles Airport:
"She [TSA agent] then placed full palms squarely on my breasts and then moved around my breasts again. She then placed both palms against my breasts and I was shocked, humiliated, alarmed and assaulted and said Stop! What are you doing? That’s not ok.… I reported this to TSA Supervisor … She got the manager [redacted] and he said he would look at the video and TSA would send me a letter but it would not tell me the resolution and that I did not have a right to view the video… I will not be sexually assaulted at the airport. As a taxpayer, I pay for the TSA."
- July 5, 2013, "TSA Contact Center Record," O'Hare Airport:
The female TSO then proceeded to roughly feel of [sic] her breast including her nipples. The TSO didn't go under her arms or along her sides. She indicated that she did not receive a proper pat down. The search was limited to her breast… Two other individuals came over to where the supervisor and gentleman were and they began laughing. The caller indicated that the incident was not the business of the other two officers and not a show for them. The caller indicated that even the Supervisor, along with the others, began to roar with laughter.
- July 6, 2013, "TSA Contact Center Record," O'Hare Airport:
Caller indicates that her mother feels as though she was singled out because she was a breast cancer survivor and the caller feels as though this is extremely discriminatory. Caller indicates that the breast is an extremely intimate place that should not be rubbed in the manner that it was. Caller expressed that her mother feels extremely violated and the caller feels that being violated in this manner is on the same level as rape. Caller has indicated that her mother will never travel again because of the pat down that she received.
- July 29, 2013, "To/From Memo," O'Hare Airport:
The person began to tell me how TSO [redacted] stuck his hands down his pants and grabbed the top of his penis and placed his fingers in his butt crack… The person was sure that he was violated and wanted to talk to a supervisor…. He said he is going to file a police report with Chicago Police Department and file a lawsuit against TSA and Officer [redacted] and walked away.
Though not a sexually related complaint, included in the records is a document with the subject line "Likely Passenger Complaint – Discrimination because of Medical Condition:"
- September 21, 2013, O'Hare:
I led the way and the passenger followed, stating all the while that she was no terrorist; she was a woman of (68? – I do not remember precisely but it was an age in the 60s which pinpointed for me that she was not eligible for a modified pat down) and a U.S. citizen…. I then asked if there were any medical devices other than the bag – she interrupted me to say "It’s only poop. I can't blow up a plane with poop! … I managed to clear her legs and feet and then [redacted]. [Redacted] I needed her to touch her bag so I could then test her hands."
Last month, CBS4 in Denver reported "that two Transportation Security Administration screeners at Denver International Airport have been fired after they were discovered manipulating passenger screening systems to allow a male TSA employee to fondle the genital areas of attractive male passengers."
"That we had to fight and sue in court to get the TSA to disclose these shocking complaints shows the TSA is more interested in a cover-up than in addressing the problem that its employees violate innocent travelers too often, sexually or otherwise," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "With more than 56,000 employees and a $7.7 billion budget, the TSA can’t be trusted to its job of securing air travel. American simply trying to board a plane should not have to worry about being assaulted by federal employees working for TSA."
An internal investigation of the Transportation Security Administration revealed security failures at dozens of the nation’s busiest airports, where undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials, ABC News has learned.
The series of tests were conducted by Homeland Security Red Teams who pose as passengers, setting out to beat the system.
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.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was apparently so frustrated by the findings he sought a detailed briefing on them last week at TSA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, according to sources. U.S. officials insisted changes have already been made at airports to address vulnerabilities identified by the latest tests.
“Upon learning the initial findings of the Office of Inspector General's report, Secretary Johnson immediately directed TSA to implement a series of actions, several of which are now in place, to address the issues raised in the report,” the DHS said in a written statement to ABC News.
Homeland security officials insist that security at the nation’s airports is strong – that there are layers of security including bomb sniffing dogs and other technologies seen and unseen. But the officials that ABC News spoke to admit these were disappointing results.
This is not the first time the TSA has had trouble spotting Red Team agents. A similar episode played out in 2013, when an undercover investigator with a fake bomb hidden on his body passed through a metal detector, went through a pat-down at New Jersey's Newark Liberty Airport, and was never caught.
At the time, the TSA said Red Team tests occurred weekly all over the United States and were meant to “push the boundaries of our people, processes, and technology.”
“We know that the adversary innovates and we have to push ourselves to capacity in order to remain one step ahead,” a TSA official wrote on the agency’s blog in March 2013. “[O]ur testers often make these covert tests as difficult as possible.”
In a 2013 hearing on Capitol Hill, then-TSA administrator John Pistole, described the Red Team as “super terrorists,” who know precisely which weaknesses to exploit.
“[Testers] know exactly what our protocols are. They can create and devise and conceal items that … not even the best terrorists would be able to do,” Pistole told lawmakers at a House hearing.
More recently, the DHS inspector general’s office concluded a series of undercover tests targeting checked baggage screening at airports across the country.
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.
Yeah, you guys are jerks, that's for sure!!
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and ranking member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) today issued the following joint statement on failed airport security checkpoint tests by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson’s decision to transfer Acting TSA Administrator Melvin Carraway to another position. Joint statement from Thune and Nelson appears below:
“Terrorist groups like ISIS take notice when TSA fails to intercept 67 out of 70 attempts by undercover investigators to penetrate airport checkpoints with simulated weapons and explosives. Last night, we each spoke with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and have requested briefings from both the department and its Office of Inspector General that conducted these tests. We take this failure rate by TSA very seriously and, at a time when we are evaluating a nominee to lead this agency that hasn’t had a Senate-confirmed leader since December, this underscores the concerns we raised with the Administration earlier this year. We expect the department to address the results of recent security tests, and what changes it will make to fill security gaps and create a culture of accountability.”
Yesterday evening, Secretary Johnson informed Sens. Thune and Nelson that he intended to transfer Acting TSA Administrator Melvin Carraway to another position. The Commerce Committee has primary legislative and oversight jurisdiction over TSA. Last month, the committee held a hearing on the nomination of Coast Guard Admiral Peter V. Neffenger to lead the agency following his nomination on April 28, 2015.
TriPacer wrote:according to HW, you guys don't know how much they actually prevent and do for us on a daily basis.
TriPacer wrote:But remember, according to HW, you guys don't know how much they actually prevent and do for us on a daily basis. We, the bourgeoisie, should just thank the Lord that the TSA is here to keep us safe.
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