All the World’s a Stage

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TSA Granting Expedited Security Checks To Entire Lines Of Travelers Undercuts Everything About Its Security Theater

by Tim Cushing, Tech Dirt

Wed, Jan 15th 2014 7:46am

The TSA finally appears to be doing something to trim down the runtime of security theater performances. The PreCheck program, which sold travelers’ rights back to them for a smallish fee is now being applied randomly to people waiting in line. And not just certain somebodies as the TSA did randomly over the holiday season in an effort to appear slightly less annoying. A whole lot of somebodies, according to this report from The Consumerist.

While the TSA would probably prefer this random largesse to be greeted with relief and gratitude, its normal day-to-day enforcement of petty, illogical policies ensures that this sort of thing is only greeted with suspicion.

Chris Morran was naturally perplexed by the TSA’s implicit admission that its security theater was, in fact, security theater. After all, if whole lines can be declared “not terrorists,” then why all the shoeless jumping through hoops the other 99.99% of the time?

Morran has a good reason to be suspicious of this move. Not only does it undercut the TSA’s arguments for pretty much everything else that it does, it also contorts itself to give itself a pat on the back for being so damn good at detecting terrorists. This allows the TSA to give its Threat Assessment Program a veneer of legitimacy it hasn’t earned. Morran points out that he didn’t see a single “screening dog” anywhere and nothing indicating the decision was being made with any sort of “assessment” being involved. It was just business as usual and then, suddenly, everyone swept through the security process with shoes and laptops intact.

While I’m sure the travelers appreciated the expedited process, the real danger here is that the TSA — which is supposed to be ensuring our airplanes are terrorist-free — is now arbitrarily deciding to drop 90% of the process on a whim. Even if the infamous BDOs (and their pet friends) are performing some sort of en masse “assessment,” that process has been deemed no more likely to net a terrorist than the randomly dragging every other person off for extra screening. Either the TSA needs to drop the many pretenses that “support” its procedures or it needs to stand by the very things it has claimed for years are essential to preventing terrorist activity. What if this had nothing to do with assessment and had everything to do with agents feeling less than motivated? It would look exactly the same and would have the same amount of “threat detection” behind it.

Study: Analysis of 225 Terrorism Cases Finds NSA Phone Record Collection Didn’t Prevent Attacks

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Monday January 13, 2014 10:28 am

According to the analysis by the New America Foundation, “An in-depth analysis of 225 individuals recruited by al-Qaeda or a like-minded group or inspired by al-Qaeda’s ideology, and charged in the United States with an act of terrorism since 9/11, demonstrates that traditional investigative methods, such as the use of informants, tips from local communities, and targeted intelligence operations, provided the initial impetus for investigations in the majority of cases, while the contribution of NSA’s bulk surveillance programs to these cases was minimal.”

Telephone metadata collection “played an identifiable role in initiating, at most, 1.8 percent of these cases.”

Initially, when revelations from disclosures from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began to be published, US intelligence agency officials responded by claiming the program collecting the phone records of hundreds of millions of Americans had helped thwart 54 terrorist plots. That fabricated statistic gradually unraveled, especially after Senator Patrick Leahy confronted NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Gen. Alexander has claimed, prior to 9/11, the NSA could not connect the dots because it did not have the dots. This is why it needs the bulk metadata program. But the government did not fail to stop hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar because it did not have this program. “The government missed multiple opportunities to catch Mihdhar.”

In effect, the NSA is exploiting a major policy failure that led to a terrorist attack in order to justify mass surveillance. Had information been shared and had agencies responded to warnings of impending attacks, it is possible Mihdhar could have been stopped.

“The overall problem for US counterterrorism officials is not that they need the information from the bulk collection of phone data, but that they don’t sufficiently understand or widely share the information they already possess that is derived from conventional law enforcement and intelligence techniques, the study concludes. It cites a number of recent terrorism attacks where this has been the case: Headley, Maj. Nidal Hasan, Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, Carlos Bledsoe.

This deconstruction of false statements has had an impact. Now, intelligence officials, like former NSA deputy director John Inglis (who retired on Friday), fall back on the argument that the program is an “insurance policy.”

More than six months later, officials have retreated to we must have the phone records of all Americans in a database because it helps us sleep at night. Which proves there is no actual legitimate security justification for collecting and storing the phone records of all Americans.

The only argument for continuing this program is built on an unflinching belief in subjecting a population to mass surveillance. And, when Obama says he will continue it in some form on Friday, he will be arguing for the preservation of a clearly authoritarian program.

Citizens of the USA are the most craven, cowardly people I’ve ever met.

Vent Hole

1 comment

  1. ek hornbeck

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