Frequently Asked Questions
March 10, 2012 32 Comments
I’m doing my best to read through all the comments, both here and around “the interwebs” (as TSA Blogger Bob would put it), and wanted to address some of the more common ones here:
Q: Can’t they just rotate you 90° and take another scan?
A: Not logistically. Adding a second scan will double the amount of time per scan. This might not seem like a big deal, but you’d need double the machines and double the staff to handle the traffic, increasing an $8B/year, 60,000-large agency to who knows how big. There’s also not enough physical space at the airports to accommodate this. Additionally, you’d be receiving twice the dose of radiation (and no matter what they say, it indeed has the potential to be harmful, not because of the amount, but because it is focused entirely on the skin), not to mention twice the false positive rate. The false positive rate is already estimated at around 40%, and taking a second scan would increase that to 64%. If two-thirds of people are going to need a pat-down anyway, what’s the point? Finally, doing a profile view would require a software upgrade, especially for the ATD systems, which will take significant time to build, test, deploy, and train for.
Q. Would it work with the new scanners with the “stick figure” images? Don’t they swivel around your body and create a 3-D image?
A. The video shows me going through BOTH the older Rapiscan backscatter x-rays (at FLL) as well as the brand new L-3 Provision millimeter wave scanners with Automated Threat Detection (“stick figure technology,” at CLE). This exploit works with ALL scanners the TSA currently has. The L-3 scanners simulate a 3-D image, but do not image you from all sides, and thus the (non-)threat item does not make it into the simulation. This is additionally aided by the pose the TSA has you adopt. With arms above your head, a the sides of a button down shirt will actually be pulled away from your body if you’re of average or thin build. The farther the object is from your body, the less likely a front/back image is to catch it contrasting against your body.
Q. How do we know this is for real?
A. Well, the non-denial by the TSA’s official response on their blog is a good start (read the comments — they’re great!). I’ll be submitting a Freedom of Information Act request on Monday for a copy of the security video showing me going through the scanners, which should fairly conclusively show that the object travelled through the scanners with me. But those requests take time, so if you’re in a hurry, I do think the video posted clear enough instructions on how to replicate my test. :) Remember, the machines have very frequent false positives, so in order to increase my likelihood of success, I wore a plain shirt (no fancy patterns, smallest buttons possible) and used thin fabric and single-stitched sewing for the pocket, and made sure the test item was 100% metal on the outside — no plastic, rubber, or glass. Also, to be clear, I’m not advocating or inciting anyone to try this — I’m just saying it would be possible.
Q. Are you worried that terrorists will take advantage of the alleged flaw?
A. We have this big security flaw, which is a hole that can either be exposed by the TSA in an investigation, which obviously hasn’t happened yet; by a citizen investigation, which has now happened; or by a terrorist doing an investigation, which is what we don’t want to happen. By identifying this flaw, we can fix it before that third option happens. Also, the TSA was provided with a copy of my video before it was published publicly.
Q. Why did you state that we should privatize airport security?
A. There are lots of reasons why we need to privatize airport security, but before I get into them, I want to be clear that my priority is to get our right to a reasonable search (no nude scanners, no “touching people’s junk”) restored to airports, regardless of whether the screeners are government or non-government. Longer term, I would love to see the TSA’s role reduced. First, privatizing security means that if there is a problem, I can vote with my money. If an airline decides to have abusive screeners, I’ll fly another airline that cares. Second, I do believe (and as best I know, there is little argument showing otherwise) that we can do private security for less money than government security. Third, as a political preference, I prefer my government to be as small as possible. A 60,000 employee agency to secure airports is absolutely absurd, and ends up being full of waste (see point #2) and less agile. Fourth, in having sued the TSA, I can tell you that they hide behind immunity that is only available to the government, whereas private companies would be more easily brought to justice for abuse.
Q. What’s the story with your TSA lawsuits, and how are they going?
A. My original lawsuit against the TSA (compilation of all documents) was filed in November 2010, which seeks injunctive relief (no money) to force the TSA to stop photographing us naked and touching our genitals. It was dismissed from U.S. District Court under an obscure law that requires “orders” of the TSA to be “appealed” (to the Courts of Appeals) rather than the subject of a new action in the District Courts. While I argued that Congress intended an “order” to be the result of an agency proceeding (for example, revoking one’s security credentials after allegations of impropriety, whereby one would be entitled to argue their side to the TSA, present evidence, etc.), the TSA argued basically that any decision they make that they write down is an “order” and insulates them from review by District Courts. So why not just file in the Court of Appeals? There are no jury trials there, no witness stand, and no right to discovery. We have the right to all of these things when we question the constitutionality of our government’s actions, and I will be appealing this ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court shortly.
I also filed a second lawsuit earlier this month as a result of being kicked out of FLL airport. During that process, the TSA unlawfully detained me, threatened me with arrest, threatened me with forcible search, conducted a retaliatory search of my belongings, unlawfully took my personal information, and then conspired with the airport operator to hide the videos of this. Luckily, I was recording the entire thing using my cell phone sitting a few feet away.
Q. How can I sue the TSA?
A. If the TSA has wronged you, it is possible to sue them and win. I’m not an attorney and cannot give you legal advice, but I can suggest that some of the first things you need to do are to file Freedom of Information Act requests to get any evidence (especially video), and to file a notice of claim with the agency (you have limited time!). Read up on the Federal Tort Claims Act and Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents for more details. As best I am aware, you must file in federal court — your local small claims court won’t do. You should be aware that it’s a long process, and not worth starting if you don’t intend to follow through with significant research and writing, or pay a lawyer to do so.
Q. What can I do to help?
A. Contact your Representatives and Senators and ask them to take a look at the video and then remove all funding for the body scanners. Additionally, there’s a donation link to contribute towards helping my lawsuit seeking injunction against the TSA’s nude body scanners and genital groping make it to the U.S. Supreme Court for the win. Filing is expensive, printing and mailing is expensive (in SCOTUS, documents must be filed with 40 copies — no joke!), and I’ve taken hundreds of hours off of work to get things done so far. It’s important that we go after the TSA from all angles and simultaneously prove to Congress, the courts, and the public that the scanners are unsafe, ineffective, and invasive, and your support — either financially, in the form of calling your representatives, protesting, or whatever you can and choose to do — helps this to happen. A huge thank you to those who have donated so far — it’s been incredible to see!
Q. What are your “official” accounts?
A. “tsaoutofourpants” here on WordPress, Google, Y Combinator, Reddit, Blogger (TSA Official Blog), and I’ve posted on several smaller sites as well. Follow me on Twitter using “tsaoutourpants” (no “of”).
Q. What will you do next?
A. The ball is in the TSA’s court. They can’t ignore this — the mainstream media coverage is just beginning! I’ve been in touch with some of the larger MSM outlets yesterday, and additionally, I’ve been in touch with the offices of several members of Congress. We’ll see what the TSA does, and take it from there.