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Monday, November 22, 2010

Osama Laughter - Dear TSA: alternatives!

"Osama Laughter"
By Robert Harrold, Mo.22Nov10

     It's hard to believe that some polls in recent days indicate that as many as 80% of U.S. air travelers are willing to "give up a few civil rights" and suffer "some indignities", even allow their "children to be traumatized" in order to acquire a "sense of" "feeling safer" while air commuting.  Many experts have opined that security is not improved albeit marginally at best while the Constitution is abandoned in another "don't let a crisis go to waste" type of mismanagement.
     As to my experience giving me confidence to opine on the airport search privacy and Constitutional concerns, though somewhat dated, having worked border smuggling, airport passenger inspection, including outbound I may be more familiar with the complexities of the physical side of the passenger inspection than most.  In addition, some of my investigation activities led to working on some special projects which were directed toward finding non-invasive means to examine passengers, while minimizing their privacy concerns and at the same time expediting their processing through the examination procedures. 
     In recent years, my personal computing and applications knowledge related to the scanner possiblities give me confidence in my opinion.  I encourage those former or present law enforcement officers with experience re aircraft/airport passenger processing, inspection, search, privacy, Constitutional issues, etc. to email their opines so I may post them on my blog and/or forward them to others who might be interested.
     For 24 years, as a Special Agent, Criminal Investigator, my work included border searches, body carry smuggling, and related examinations of people entering the U.S.   As communications capabilities improved, so did our response time receiving "intel" on "bad guy" smuggling techniques which in turn allowed faster "How to tell the Good Guys from the Bad Guys" responses.  Customs, being the lead border agency at that time, tested many ideas to augment, not replace officer experience, ways to electronically/mechanically improve detection of contraband and identification of suspects.  "The New Orleans office participated with the airport authority in one of the first installations and testing of airport magnetometer examination machines ...common today. 
     Also, Miami and New Orleans were the first two ports to include automatic checking of identities against our, then internal, computerized database of known and suspected criminals as well as wanted persons.  To the surprise of some inspectors, patrol officers and agents, many violators were discovered that would otherwise have been processed into the U.S. undetected.   Even in those earlier times, Interpol, FBI, other federal and state and local 'warrants and wants' and criminal history data were among the information routinely coupled with physical inspections of passengers and their luggage.  This led to a more confident inspection and in most instances actually sped up the processing of incoming passengers, especially when at times hundreds might be waiting to be processed inbound from their arriving aircraft.  
      Part of later work in Customs involved what was nicknamed the 'Star Wars' project.  It was an early effort between Customs and Treasury to develop the facial recognition techniques to be used en-mass at border clearance and high-speed processing of people in high traffic, high security areas such as airport pre-boarding & pre-clearance, examining passengers arriving from foreign destinations at airports, scanning crowds in public areas, examining people entering sensitive areas, dignitary protection, access control, and for remote identification of suspects of all kinds.   When outbound passenger examinations began as part of money laundering controls the manual work load increased, but again, automated techniques reduced passenger delays and minimized their discomfort at being unexpectedly singled out for "special treatment."  Again, a now widely used tool.
      These early efforts were aimed at expedited processing coupled with acceptable accuracy in identifying known and previously unknown targets and suspects.   Included was studying the best methods of capturing and integrating travel history data from passengers and cargo to incorporate it in routine customs duty collection as well as investigative interests.  The amount of data collected then was massive and is even more so today, yet it is able to give an acceptable response time to evaluate passenger processing.   Inter-agency feuding and "turf protection" hampered the free flow of law enforcement and intelligence data; however, a system was easily found that allowed inter-agency sharing of computerized information on a timely basis when safety of officers or national security might be impacted.
    Another part of Customs was developing the first license plate identification system now widely used at hundreds, if not thousands of locations to identify vehicles as they drive by the sensing devices on roads, in/out of parking facilities, toll booths, and by roving police and security vehicles.  Those early techniques to identify and examine the contents of vehicles, containers, included testing means to look through people's clothing to spot contraband.  In the latter case, detecting body carried contraband, it was an obvious privacy concern addressed from the very beginning way back in the theoretical discussions. 
     It was quickly determined that any infrared or 'radiation' imaging technique could incorporate simple privacy protection by programming the devices to 'blank out' / ignore / minimize the body image so as to reveal and highlight only what remained ...the possible concealed contraband.   Coupled with bio-metric identification, if it was already on file, as was later developed for the INS, techniques to quickly compare finger/hand spead, fingerprints, and facial recognition was successfully tested and incorporated at many U.S. INS border inspection points.   
     Knowing that electronic means to eliminate the bulk/clarity of the human body parts is possible, and in fact preferable in order to quickly highlight foreign objects makes it all the more damning that the U.S. agency that is now "fondling" children, minors of all ages, and people who should be exempted from invasive examination such as those who have obvious or easily determined reasons for being accommodated. 
     Now that the U.S. has indoctrinated the populace to accept driver licenses with some biometric ID/bio-chips plus U.S. citizens traveling foreign are now required to have scan enabled passports with similar capabilities, it flies in the face of reason that the TSA, military, and U.S. border enforcement agencies can't incorporate existing privacy protection capabilities into the equipment which is now not much more than a "prurient voyeurs dream!" 
     Considering the fact that some explosives used by terrorists are difficult to detect and can be incorporated in clothing materials and considering further that 'internal body cavity' bombs are being used, makes the whole situation almost laughable in its absurdity [Hold it down bin Laden!]  Since TSA's answer to terror threats is to respond, reactively, to specific techniques, what will you then be subjected to when TSA discovers terrorists are planning on using internal (body cavity) carried explosives?  Imagine the possibilities!
     Osama bin Laden must be laughing at the chaos, turmoil and resentment, and loss of Freedoms created by the 'knee-jerk' reactive stance taken by the TSA and its White House 'crisis' management.
     Knowing full well that many civilian law enforcement agencies have tremendously capable computer data processing techniques, huge compilations of known and suspected criminals and terrorists, and knowing that "profiling" has and is still used at many airports by roving 'plain clothed' police (federal, state and local) it further astounds me that our government officials, at the highest levels, still lie to the public about profiling.  It exists now; it is being widely used, has been for many years, and has been relatively effective when properly combined with other intelligence data readily available to the law officers.
     I am not saying that it would be 100% possible to eliminate all 'intensive/invasive examinations.'  If you visit the Internet and only briefly look at some of the blatant violations of personal privacy, "sexual assaults" upon young children and "rough" handling of adults alike, a strong case could be made that the TSA staff commiting the violations could appear to be no more than quickly hired rent-a-cops with IQs incapable of rational judgments; however, that is not the case for a large percentage of the TSA personnel.  They are "just following orders" and probably are equally as anxious to avoid the tense situations that are bound to continue under the current TSA administrator's policies and procedures.  However, our laws and Constitution were made to correct "exceptions" not to allow them to become the norm.  So if abuses due to a lack of judgment by TSA employees or conversely if traveler values trigger more negative incidents, then inevitably the system is doomed to fail, and short of totally grounding all aircraft, halting all trains, buses, and subways, and closing all border crossings, Osama bin Laden triumphs! 
     Maybe viewing some of the TSA and other agencies' "nude images" that are being leaked on to the net or watching clips of children being "fondled", adults and infirm being man-handled, passengers thrown to the ground, disrobed, being "felt up" hand-to-skin, forced to expose prosthesis and Dr. approved medical devices, being stripped partially or fully nude, forced to remove 'metallic body adornments' with crude tools, and even by seeing nurse attended infirm forced to stand or assume dangerous, demanding or debilitating physical postures against medical attendants protests (I personally witnessed that in Omaha's airport!) ... (Maybe, if you've been scanned lately, you'll recognize yourself on the Internet!) ...just maybe you'll be encouraged to contact Congress and the White House and voice an opinion on what's surely just the beginning. its airports ...where next?
     Not-withstanding the apparent fumble-fingered approach to air passenger security, the Constitutional issues are -- as have happened in many 'rushed to resolve' crisis situations in our recent past, such as Ruby Ridge, Waco, Katrina, -- the 'police state' approach to curing this latest crisis (which the gov't hasn't disclosed the nature of) allows for the inevitable end-game conspiracy theory that targets its citizenry, that's you and me, be indoctrinated and suborned into accepting any and every violation of our rights that 'Big Brother' deems necessary.  Could the bureaucracy be probing to detect the point at which people begin to "push back" thus justifying a stronger response from government?  But of course that'd be another "conspiracy nut" idea.
     If every security "crisis" that comes along is used as an excuse ignore our Constitution while turning a blind eye toward ways to accomplish the same objectives even more effectively ...then you are left to draw your own conclusions as to why you must accept being "felt up", "fondled", "sexually harassed" and otherwise mistreated almost, for some people, to the point of being mentally raped!  And, irony of ironies, Muslims want to be exempted!
     There's no excuse for our government not having implemented public accepted privacy protections in all airport search procedures be they physical contact or electronic viewing.  The government seems to have forgotten that many domestic and foreign air travelers would willing submit to reasonable background investigations to "pre-clear" their trips so they could be trusted to move relatively unencumbered through our domestic transportation system, including being able to vouch for their accompanied minor children, aged or infirm companions. 
     There's no reason for us to have a 2nd rate, ineffective, and personally demeaning security procedure be it at an airport, border crossing, check point or any during any contact with authority!
     Something's "rotten in Denmark" and it isn't cheese! 
P.S.  Consider: 
  • Do you believe that Congressmen, Senators, senior staffers, dignitaries, etc. are forced to endure the same treatment as John Q. Citizen?
  • And, have you crossed a land border or inland checkpoint lately?  If not just air travel but other national security infrastructure interests are to be protected, why aren't all land-border crossers subjected to the same treatment?
  • Are inbound, from foreign, passengers being subjected to the same scrutiny as domestic air travelers?
  • Outside the airport inside issue, are aware that you maybe irradiated by roving "see into vehicles" equipment more powerful than body scanners?  What radiation levels are you absorbing?  What are the effects?
  • Why do TSA and other involved government officials and administrators ignore EL AL's successful security, especially pre-airport departure area procedures?
  • Are equivalent pre-clearance examinations in foreign airports serving U.S. destinations being setup too?
  • And what "Three Blind Mice" "Keystone Cops" mentality has avoided addressing air cargo security with the same level of scrutiny burdening passengers?  Or are cargo dollars more precious than passengers sitting above?
  • House Resolution 6416, dubbed the "American Traveler Dignity Act," which would establish that TSA employees are not immune to any laws regarding physical contact or making images of another person, nor allow them to expose others to radiation-emitting machinery.  TSA employees would be subject to the same laws as any other citizen.
     Please, visit my blog entry below  ( and view some of the video clips or find your own on the Web, after you become incensed, call, write, or fax your Congressman and Senators, the TSA and the White House.  And, you might consider not flying unless absolutely necessary until the airport situation improves.  It wouldn't be fair to other passengers for you to avoid the faster scan process thereby overburdening TSA and further slowing passenger processing as some have suggested.
     Personally, being groped maybe the lesser of two evils rather than having my body scan floating on the Net for all of eternity!  Personally, I'm going to delay flying as long as I can, in hopes that some sanity will soon prevail and that I won't have to deal with either indignity.

Robert Harrold, U.S. Customs, Special Agent (retired)
[I also flew "air security" on U.S. flights to/from Europe, the mid-east & far east before and after the start-up of 'sky marshals" along with other Customs/Treasury Agents.]

[ Osama 10 - US 0 ]  
P.S.   Below the blog posts on this page and at is a list of phone and fax numbers to the Senate, House of Representatives, and to the White House.  It's easy, if you'll take just a few minutes, to let the government know your position on losing your Rights as the result of "crisis" mis-management.

White House: No Comparison Between U.S., Israeli Airport Security 
Washington (
 – White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said it is difficult to compare the Israeli model for airport security to the much larger United States, but he never criticized the Israeli airport security, which uses profiling to screen passengers.
     The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. The amendment specifically also requires search and arrest warrants be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. It was adopted as a response to the abuse of the writ of assistance, which is a type of general search warrant, in the American Revolution. Search and arrest should be limited in scope according to specific information supplied to the issuing court, usually by a law enforcement officer, who has sworn by it.
     In Mapp v. Ohio367 U.S. 643 (1961), the Supreme Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment applies to the states by way of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court has also ruled that certain searches and seizures violated the Fourth Amendment even when a warrant was properly granted.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Some excerpts from Wikipedia reference re 4th Amendment:


If a party gives consent to a search, a warrant is not required.  There are exceptions and complications to the rule, including the scope of the consent given, whether the consent is voluntarily given, and whether an individual has the right to consent to a search of another's property.
Plain view
If an officer is lawfully present, he may seize objects that are in "plain view."  However, the officer must have had probable cause to believe that the objects are contraband.
Exigent circumstance
There are also "exigent circumstances" exceptions to the warrant requirement.  Exigent circumstances arise when the law enforcement officers have reasonable grounds to believe that there is an immediate need to protect their lives, the lives of others, their property, or that of others, the search is not motivated by an intent to arrest and seize evidence, and there is some reasonable basis, to associate an emergency with the area or place to be searched.
Border search exception
Searches conducted at the United States border or the equivalent of the border (such as an international airport) may be conducted without a warrant or probable cause subject to the "border-search" exception. Most border searches may be conducted entirely at random, without any level of suspicion, pursuant to U.S. Customs and Border Protection plenary search authority.  However, searches that intrude upon a traveler's personal dignity and privacy interests, such as strip and body cavity searches, must be supported by "reasonable suspicion."  The U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fourth and Ninth circuits have ruled that information on a traveler's electronic materials, including personal files on a laptop computer, may be searched at random, without suspicion.
Other exceptions
..a search is reasonable if the target without coercion consents to the search, even if the target is unaware and not told about their right to refuse to cooperate.
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     It has been suggested that o'who?, the clown, and 'those who surround him' are not the bumbling fools they appear to be.  Nor are they one of the 'Three Stooges' but rather are shrewd implementation/drivers and fellow-travelers of policies designed to disarm the citizenry & collapse the American economy.  Why?  o'nocchio's grandiose scheme to "fundamentally transform America" is more than simple campaign rhetoric as can be seen by his use of "enabling acts" to circumvent the Constitution of the United States.  As Ollie used to say, "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into."



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Robert Burns b.1759-d.1796, 8May1794, The Morning Chronicle)  1] "Supposed to be addressed by Bruce to his soldiers before the Battle of Bannockburn against Edward II."
Listen A Speaker GIF Image. to the poem "Scots Wha Hae" read by Doug Robertson [3m55s],  Music by Steve McDonald from 'Bannockburn' [Stone of Destiny]" (.mp3, 3.7MB)
• alternate A Speaker GIF Image. ScotWha2.ram Stream in Real Audio (rm, 3m55s) re [ Robert Bruce's March to Bannockburn, Robert I, the Bruce (1274-1329) also know as Robert the Bruce, "The Hammer of the Scots" ] plus A Speaker GIF Image. "Scots, wha hae Wi' Wallace Bled," (midi, Scottish Songs) & .midi sequenced with lyrics [src] ***
and A Speaker GIF Image. Scots Wha Hae (bagpipes) by the 48th Highlanders of Canada (7MB, .mp3, 3m14s)
and A Speaker GIF Image. Scots Wha Hae, bagpipes solo (1.3MB, .mp3, 1m22s)
and A Speaker GIF Image. Scots Wha Hae (2.7MB, .mp3, 3m4s; 'The Corries' ["Battle songs of Scotland", sung by Ronnie Browne solo] & A Speaker GIF Image. Scots Wha Hae with pipes (4.3MB, .mp3, 4m29s)
Material published on Harrold's blog is collected from email forwards, public articles, and my opines or those submitted by users.  I try to avoid copyrighted material.  If anything on this site has been copyrighted by you, please contact me so it can be removed or give you credit. -- Robert Harrold small envelope • cite info:
"As a nation we have been asleep for years.  Lulled by affluence and self-indulgent apathy, our collective awareness has grown dim.  This has created an opening for our enemies, one that may ultimately prove fatal.  This is the truth and what we do, or don't do, will determine the consequences, for better or worse.  It is time to decide." --
The Manhattan Declaration

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El Centro, California, United States
mailto: Robert Harrold formerly dba AERC, El Centro, CA, US 92243

Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta, ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me.
Do me justice, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy; rescue me from the deceitful and unjust man.
- Psalm 43 KJV, 42 Douay Rheims  (

There are certain universal truths.  There is right and wrong.  Life is, choice Isn't.  The 2nd Amendment is for you and me, not the government.

"We failed to react appropriately to them and, instead, displayed weakness.  And, the weak are always beaten."  ~~ Vladimir Putin

"We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." - George Orwell on a BBC broadcast, April 4, 1942

"An armed society is a polite society." -- Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer

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