A reader took a picture of my Tweet on CNN and emailed it to me. It says, "Passngrs are demanding SMARTER security not more restrictions. Racial profiling goes against the spirit of freedom in the US"
I was recently asked by CNN to Tweet my opinion on racial profiling. That got me thinking a little deeper about the subject. Tonight I have been talking to some of my Twitter followers about my opinions and realized I needed more than 140 characters to express my opinion since Twitter limits me to only 140 characters.
Quite simply I feel that racial profiling is very wrong and it can actually hurt our security. All over the internetÂ people are demanding that we start racial profiling. People feel that concentrating on one type of person (normally middle eastern male in his early to middle 20’s) will make us safer. Here are the reasons why I don’t agree:
* The guy who just tried to blow up Delta flight 253 was Nigerian and he would not have fit into the typical “racial profiling” that people are looking to have. A real profiler should have seen he paid in cash, had no ID, and I am guessing showed signs of being nervous.
* If we didÂ discriminateÂ people based on race, wouldn’t terrorist groups Â just use people of different races?Â Remember John Walker Lindh? The American citizen who was captured in 2001 and was being trained by Al-Qaeda? With a nice shave and haircut he would NEVER be racially profiled at an airport. I am sure he is not the only person training with Al-Qaeda that doesn’t match the proper “profile.” While we spend time, effort and money training people to racially profile, terrorists will spend time training people that don’t fit that profile.
* As I said in my Tweet to CNN, we don’t need more security, but smarter security. Part of the smart is getting people who are highly trained to detect a person who is about to kill himself and a few hundred other people. No matter how much they hate America or are ready to die for their cause, that is going to make anyone a little nervous. Professional (not the people making ~$35k with a TSA patch on their shoulder) profilers are able to tell the difference between someone who is nervous to fly and someone nervous that their bomb won’t go off.
* It is just wrong. Even if I honestly thought racially profiling passengers would increase my security, I would rather be less secure than participate in a system that places people intoÂ categoriesÂ based on their race. We have worked very hard as a society for the past 50+ years for racial equality and this would be a HUGE step backwards.
* Will it spread? I hate the saying “it’s a slippery slope” but it kind of works here. If we start racially profiling with flying, then why not with shoplifting or with jay-walking? I am NOT ok with even thinking about whatÂ precedentÂ it could set.
I have seen the quote from Benjamin Franklin a lot today (mostly thanks to FlightWisdom) and it is perfect for this concept: “Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.”
Thank you to all my Twitter followers for motivating me to write this. Also be sure to read Lou Young’s, story about racial profiling (thanks toÂ @JonUPS for pointing this out to me)
Ok discussion time, what are your thoughts?
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Thanks Rita for taking the picture
You don't want to get one of these!
This is a developing story so details are a bit rough at this point. While Christopher Elliot (National Geographic Traveler’s reader advocate, travel troubleshooter, and MSNBC columnist) blogged and tweeted as he was putting his kids in the bathtub, he heard a knock at the door.Â It was Special Agent Robert Falherty serving him a subpoena from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The subpoena gave Agent Falherty the permission to search any faxes and emails related to TSA Security Directive SD-1544-09-06. Directive 1544-09-06 spelled out all the fun new rules the TSA put into place that were widely panned (even by me).
Fancy I should choose to link to Steven Frischling’s Flying with Fish blog, since he too is reporting via Twitter that the DHS served him a warrant and searched his computer (update: he has now blogged about his DHS experience). Frischling made fun of the fact that he could see many people from the TSA and DHS reading his blog. But now it isn’t much of a joke, it is just crazy!
It seems the DHS is trying to find who leaked the TSA Directive and they are obviously willing to go toÂ ridiculous lengths to do so.
I realize I don’t have all the facts yet, but even in the best case scenario, this is not going to look good for the DHS. It makes them look aggressive by trying to cover it up, seemingly embarrassed by their own directive.Â I am no legal expert, but I am pretty certain the press have protections from such violations.
Elliott and Frischling are highly respected travel and aviation journalists. When the TSA and government were silent about what was going on, you could count on them to get some answers before anyone else.
Even if DHS is in the legal right, it doesn’t make it right what they are doing.Â As a Twitter follower of mine said, “If [DHS] were as good on security as they are on chasing bloggers…”
I will be updating this blog as more information becomes available.
* Great write up and interview with Frischling from Runway Girl
* In the gig economy, who protects journalist bloggers? from Chris Around the World
* Government harassing blogger for source of TSA directive “leak” from Gadling
* Follow all the latest developments via Twitter #tsaFAIL
* Article written up by Tnooz
* Write up by the Seattle PI
* A counter argument made by Christopher Fotos at Things with Wings on why the TSA did the right thing.
UPDATE 12/30 8am: Elliott and Frischling are reporting via Twitter that the DHS came this morning and took Frischling’s computer and plan to be back around 3pm. This is getting crazier by the hour.
UPDATE 1:45pm: Mary Kirby via her blog Runway Girl talked to TSA agents. The TSA confirms they are looking into the leak. They did not have an answer to an airline reportedly was reading the Directive 1544-09-06 before takeoff and was unable to answer what direction the airlines were given. Frischling just reported on Twitter that the DHS just delivered his laptop back to him after searching it all day. Wired now has the story and is reporting:
Frischling, a freelance travel writer and photographer in Connecticut who writes a blog for the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, said the two agents who visited him arrived around 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, were armed and threatened him with a criminal search warrant if he didnâ€™t provide the name of his source. They also threatened to get him fired from his KLM job and indicated they could get him designated a security risk, which would make it difficult for him to travel and do his job.
Update 4:15pm: Wired now has a photograph of Frischling and agent Falherty. Now that is good! Looks like that is his laptop on the car hood. Frischling was interviewed on an internet radio station at 4pm CST, I am working on getting a link to that soon.
UPDATE 5:10pm: From Frishling’s Twitter account: “Well..MacBook left with TSA functioning, except a mouse issue, now I have all sorts of harddrive & operating system issues. Oy, not good“
UPDATE 9:00pm: About 24hrs ago I was one of two people that blogged about this story. Now USAToday, FoxNews, NYT and many more have covered it. It is even on the front page of MSNBC. I am amazed at the grassroots efforts of a few aviation bloggers on Twitter helped to make this happen!
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Image: timsamoff/Flickr/ChristopherÂ Elliott
TSA not up to the job. Check on the Image link below for the story on this picture!
Is the TSA going crazy? Yes! At least in my opinion. I won’t get into how silly it is for me to take off my shoes every time I fly because of something someone tried to do eight years ago. That seems kind of old school now. I think I should talk more about the recent developments.
If you haven’t heard already, on Christmas Day, a man tried to blow up Delta Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. Long story short (not to down play the incident), the man tried to detonate explosives on the plane that were sewn into his clothes. Luckily, it failed, passengers were able to restrain him, and the Airbus 300 with all 278 people aboard was able to land safely. The man claims al Qaeda connections, but those have not been confirmed.
Yes, someone trying to kill almost 300 people is a HORRID act and should not be glossed over. However, having a bad knee-jerk reaction is not the right move. Homeland Security and TSA announced some pretty crazy rules after this incident.Â These rules were made just for international flights coming to the US and here are a few of my favorite:
* Passengers were not able to get out of their seats during the last hour of flight. This makes little sense to me. If someone wanted to blow up a plane, it would be easy to do it any other time. Yes, terrorists want to make the biggest scene possible and exploding a plane right before landing, but I doubt this rule would stop someone from blowing up or hi-jacking a plane.
* Disabling of all GPS systems on aircraft. Many international aircraft have in-flight entertainment systems (IFE) with a map showing where the aircraft current location.Â If an airline cannot disable the GPS separately from the IFE, the whole system must be disabled. That means if you paid more to fly on an airline with a great IFE, you won’t be able to enjoy it. This seems like one of the craziest rules, because: #1 someone could bring a portable GPS system, #2 you can have a basic idea where you are by simple math, #3 just look out the window.
* Passengers are being frisked more.Â TSA is telling passengers to expect to be patted down at the gate before boarding. On the outside this seems like it might actually help, but the most recent terrorist had the explosives sewed into his clothes. I also don’t appreciate being patted down by some stranger to go visit my family.
Already the TSA is backing down on some of their requirements. TSA is saying that airlines can once again use their IFE and passengers do not need to stay seated during the last hour of the flight. Doesn’t the fact that the TSA is loosening their restrictions show even they realize this was a knee-jerk reaction and doesn’t provide any real security?
It is disappointing that the TSA had over eight years since September 11th to come up with a solid solution, but so far, I am not impressed. How about stopping a guy, who was on the watch list, bought a one-way ticket in cash, had his father call the US embassy to warn his son might do something stupid and has ties to other terrorists, from getting onto a plane? Finding a way to stop people like that from boarding planes seems like a much smarter approach than making me sit during the last hour of the flight and taking away my IFE.
Of course I do not want a plane to be hi-jacked or be blown up, but I am not willing to give up my personal rights, my privacy or have a huge inconvenience for a very, very, very low chance of something happening.
The reality is, if someone wants to blow up a plane, it is not that difficult. Look at this most recent incident; he had so many indicators, but was still able to get onto the plane. There are so many security holes, with a little effort and enough people, this can happen again, even with huge security reforms. I am not going to let this scare me into not flying and I hope it doesn’t stop you.
Here are some other great perspectives on this incident I have enjoyed reading:
* Dan Webb with Things in the Sky
* Brett Snyder with Cranky Flier
* Mary Kirby on her blog and via Twitter
* Steven Frischling with Flying with Fish
* How could this happen? By the NY Times
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Rep Dan Lipinski from Illinois feels it is a good idea for the TSA to have a uniform carry-on size regulation. He wants to limit the maximum size of a carry-on to 22″ x 18″ x 10″. It is not the size that is as disconcerting, as not allowing the airlines to make their own decisions and the total lack of need for this legislation
Each airline flies different aircraft, have different configurations and clientele with different baggage needs. The bill would require the TSA to enforce the rules (presumably during the security check process). Although TSA has made leaps and bounds with speeding up the security process, this could greatly slow it down. People would be having to take stuff out, trying to cram their bags through and of course having to leave the line to check in their bags and come back through.
CrankFlier points out that many low cost airlines have their “minimum size” larger than what Rep Lipinski is asking for, and legacy carriers are already meeting the requirements. The low cost carriers would have to cut what they already offer.
What is the real reason for this? I don’t see a safety issue here, I would like to see someone try to make a valid one. In fact this would decrease safety. The TSA would have to police bag-size instead of doing what they are trained and look for illegal items taken through security.
This seems like a waste of time and legislation that will really hold no benefit. If airlines want to get together to create their own standard carry-on size, that is one thing, but for the government to come in and require standardization seems unnecessary.
UPDATE: FlyWithFish.com has a great chart showing all the airlines and their bag size requirements.
Oakland Airport Security Line
There are a lot of TSA stories out there recently. MMV “underwear” looking technology, have to put your shoes directly on the belt, and now you must use all three of your names when making airline reservations.
Some security measures I understand, but others leave me wondering if they provide real security or just a false sense of security? Ok, is it that much work for me to write out my middle name on my reservations? Or is it that hard for me to put my shoes directly on the xray belt? No, probably not, but I am a frequent traveller and try to pay attention to the newest rules.
Even though the “laptop in a bin”, your “3oz of liquids in a ziploc” and “have your boarding pass out so 2 people can check it” rules have been around a long time, many people still have a hard time understanding the rules. Are changing them frequently going to speed up the security lines? What happens for people that don’t have middle names? Are they going to be security checked?
The government contends these changes will increase security and will reduce mistakes. The three names will limit the mistakes of people being on the “Do Not Fly” list. Opponents worry that fliers will just be losing more privacy and not gaining any new security.
Hopefully this is the last TSA security changes until at least August when I get to blog about them requiring your birth date and gender when booking a flight too.