Airport Security Hits New Low

I think the last line in the story says it all. Eventhough there are no body scanners at the airport in question, people still have to follow the same procedures as if there were body scanners there.

To top it all off, am I the only person that finds it odd that these new multimillion dollar machines have trouble dealing with belts? Interestingly, or should it be ironically? The picture shows the real meaning of TSA: Three Standing Around.

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“Sir, remove your belt.”


“Because that’s the rule.”

“What rule? I never have to remove my belt. The buckle is nonmetallic.”

“It’s the new rule. All belts have to come off.”

“What new rule? I don’t understand.”

“Sir, you need to take it off.”

“But … What if I don’t?”

“Then you’ll have to go through secondary screening and a full pat-down.”

And so I opted for the secondary screening. Not that a pat-down is reasonable, either, but I did not want to submit to something that I felt was excessive and ridiculous without a reason or explanation.

I was asked to stand in a cordoned-off area, where I waited for several minutes as guards stood around looking at me. Finally a supervisor came over, wearing disposable blue gloves, to administer my secondary screening.

“Sir,” he said, “um, you still need to remove your belt.”

“What do you mean? I chose this so I could leave the belt on.”

“No, either way the belt has to come off.”

“What? And if it doesn’t come off?”

“Then I cannot let you through.”

So, it would seem, secondary screening isn’t really “secondary” at all. Instead of simply taking off my belt, I get a full, blue-glove groping and I have to take off my belt. Either that or I’m not allowed to fly the plane.

“Really?” I asked.


And with that I started laughing.

Much to his credit, the supervisor also laughed. He smiled, nodded and proceeded to explain this “new rule.”

Before getting to that explanation, I will note, for what it’s worth, that this particular supervisor, who asked that I not reveal his name or location, was perhaps the most decent and reasonable TSA employee I’ve ever interacted with. He was courteous and professional, not to mention sympathetic. He acknowledged that much of what flight crews are forced to endure does not make sense from a security standpoint. He does not enact policy; he enforces it. Further, he seemed fully aware of the ridiculousness of the new belts procedure.

Belts, it has been determined, can interfere with the images procured by the new full-body scanners being deployed at checkpoints around the country. And so, from now on, passengers need to remove them.

Now, although we can debate the body scanners from an effectiveness point of view, or from a privacy-rights point of view, separately, this at least makes sense.

Fair enough, except for one thing. As I looked around me, I noticed that there weren’t any body scanners anywhere at the checkpoint.

“But sir,” I said, motioning to the left and right, “there are no scanners here.”



US Servicemen Flipping The North Koreans Off

I love this picture. To me, it embodies the saying “a picture is worth 1000 words.” The servicemen told the North Koreans that the gesture was a Hawaiian good luck sign.

The North Koreans bought it. Hook, line and sinker. At least until Time magazine, in their infinite wisdom, explained what the gesture really meant in one of their articles.

Not many people visit North korea these days but if you are one of the lucky few, more likely than not you will be led through an official guided tour of USS Pueblo – an American Intelligence vessel captured in 1968 – which remains the only American vessel currently in captivity.

The seizure of USS Pueblo is now one of the forgotten episodes of the Cold War. The U.S. claimed it was in the international waters, while the D.P.R.K. insisted that it was in the North Korean waters. Diplomatic and military stand-off that followed was punctuated by a series of photos, films, and letters depicting the crew of the Pueblo enjoying their comfortable captivity.

In reality, however, the crew was being subjected to psychical and psychological abuse. From behind the bars in one of the most isolated places on the planet, the crew nonetheless delivered a master class in political subversion. To undermine the credibility of the letters written home to suggest that they had willingly defected, the crew wrote about the events that never happened. In their press conferences, they used archaic words the Koreans didn’t perfectly understand. Since none of the Koreans knew English well enough to write the confession, the vessel’s commander wrote it himself. They checked the meaning of his words with a dictionary, but failed to catch the pun: “We paean the DPRK. We paean the Korean people. We paean their great leader Kim Il Sung”. (“Paean” is homophonic with “pee on”.)

And almost by accident, they came across the idea behind their greatest coup: in two propaganda movies, the crew noticed people giving the finger were not censored. The crew deduced that the North Koreans didn’t know what the finger meant. In the subsequent propaganda photos of the crew, their middle fingers were firmly extended to the cameraman. When the North Koreans questioned, the crew described it as the “Hawaiian good luck sign.” The ruse went on unnoticed until October 1968, when Time magazine explained the mysterious gesture appearing in many photos as one of “obscene derisiveness and contempt.”



O’Donnell Doesn’t Know The Constitution

Like most of the tea baggers I’ve seen and heard of, Christine O’Donnell seems to have no clue about what the Constitution says or what it means.

The first amendment of the bill of rights establishes the separation of church and state.

Here’s the first amendment of the bill of rights:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The phrase “separation of church and state” was first used by Thomas Jefferson and it is used in reference to the passage above. Although the phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the constitution, the first amendment establishes the separation in its language.

Immigration Authorities Looking For Frauds Through Social Media

Pretty much the same principle as if you were to throw something out in the trash. It becomes public information that can, and apparently will, be used against you.

We already knew they looked through social media for people since that’s how they’ve found several fugitives, but here you have it.

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Can the government get a full picture of who you are by friending you on Facebook and monitoring your friends and family? The Department of Homeland Security thinks so, and is apparently willing to pose as that hot girl next door in order to become your friend.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation recently got its hands on a DHS document titled “Social Networking Sites and Their Importance to FDNS” (PDF) as part of its work on social network surveillance. The document generally details how social networks function and provides a list of popular sites that people around the world like to use, including Facebook, Badoo, Imeem, MySpace, Windows Live Spaces, and others.

However, the document also highlights to agents the importance of amassing a lengthy friend list to many social network users, and how they can take advantage of it. “Narcissistic tendencies in many people fuels a need to have a large group of ‘friends’ link to their pages and many of these people accept cyber-friends that they don’t even know,” reads the document. “This provides an excellent vantage point for FDNS to observe the daily life of beneficiaries and petitioners who are suspected of fraudulent activities.”

Agents are encouraged to take the opportunity to reveal fraud by poking around in people’s profiles to see whether they are in valid relationships or are attempting some other kind of fraud to get into the country. “Once a user posts online, they create a public record and timeline of their activities. In essence, using MySpace and other like sites is akin to doing an unannounced cyber “site-visit” on a [sic] petitioners and beneficiaries,” instructs the DHS.

As noted by the EFF, the memo doesn’t require DHS agents to reveal their government affiliation (or even their real names) before sending friend requests, nor does it specify what level of suspicion agents must have before trying to friend someone for surveillance. 

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