Congress Green-Lights Bill to Boost Airport Security and Ease Lines – by The Associated Press JULY 7, 2016, 6:36 AM EDT

It also would require airlines to refund fees to passengers whose bags are lost or delayed.

It also would require airlines to refund fees to passengers whose bags are lost or delayed.

House and Senate lawmakers announced an agreement Wednesday on an aviation bill to boost airport security, reduce screening lines and require airlines to refund fees to passengers whose bags are lost or delayed.

The bill would also extend the Federal Aviation Administration’s programs and policies through Sept. 30, 2017. The FAA’s current operating authority is set to expire July 15.

The bipartisan agreement was announced by senior members of the House and Senate transportation committees. Approval by both chambers is expected to swiftly follow. Congress has only nine days to act in order to prevent a partial shutdown of the agency.

The bill would require airlines to refund checked bag fees to passengers whose luggage is lost or is delayed 12 hours or more for domestic flights or 15 hours or more for overseas flights. It also requires airlines to generally ensure that children 13 years of age or under are seated adjacent to an adult or older child traveling with them.

A bill that passed the Senate in April by a vote of 95 to 3 would also have extended other consumer protections to passengers, including a requirement that airlines refund fees for other services when not delivered, such as advance seat assignments or early boarding. But those provisions, which were opposed by airlines, were dumped during negotiations with the House.

To address long airport screening lines, the bill requires the Transportation Security Administration to hire a marketing firm to generate greater public participation in the agency’s PreCheck expedited screening program for passengers who have been vetted and determined to be low security risks.

The bill also requires TSA to ensure PreCheck screening lanes are open during high-volume travel times. And the measure authorizes a pilot program to develop and test more efficient passenger and luggage screening systems.

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TSA security head removed following ‘mismanagement’ hearing – Reuters Monday 23 May 2016 20.26 EDT

Kelley Hoggan’s dismissal comes after a hearing on long airport security lines, with travelers in Chicago complaining of two-hour waits

Passengers at O’Hare International airport in Chicago wait in line to be screened at a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint.

The head of security for the US Transportation Security Administration has been removed from his position, the US House of Representatives oversight committee said Monday on Twitter.

The House panel, which held a hearing 12 May on long lines at airport security checkpoints, did not give a reason for Kelly Hoggan’s dismissal as TSA assistant administrator for security operations.

Members of the committee criticized the TSA for awarding more than $90,000 in bonuses and awards to Hoggan over a 13-month period.

TSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This month, a video of an extremely long security line at Chicago’s Midway airport went viral, with travelers complaining of waits up to two hours. The week before, the TSA had warned that short staffing could lead to delays.

If You Go Near the Super Bowl, You Will Be Surveilled Hard – APRIL GLASER. 01.31.16. 7:00 AM

Super Bowl 50 will be big in every way. A hundred million people will watch the game on TV. Over the next ten days, 1 million people are expected to descend on the San Francisco Bay Area for the festivities. And, according to the FBI, 60 federal, state, and local agencies are working together to coordinate surveillance and security at what is the biggest national security event of the year.

The Department of Homeland Security, the agency coordinating the Herculean effort, classifies every Super Bowl as a special event assignment rating (SEAR) 1 event, with the exception of the 2002 Super Bowl, which got the highest ranking because it followed the September 11 terror attacks—an assignment usually reserved for only the Presidential Inauguration. A who’s-who of agencies, ranging from the DEA and TSA to the US Secret Service to state and local law enforcement and even the Coast Guard has spent more than two years planning for the event.

All of which means that if you’re attending the game, or just happen to be in the general vicinity of the myriad events leading up to the Super Bowl, you will be watched. Closely. The festivities started Saturday and run through February 7, when the Carolina Panthers meet the Denver Broncos at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Here’s a sampling of the technology Big Brother can use to surveil you during the Super Bowl in the Bay Area.

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TSA sharply curtails ability to opt out of electronic body screening at airports – Ryan Felton Wednesday 23 December 2015 11.39 EST

New TSA guidelines will still allow some people to waive full-body scans while others will be forced to undergo check ‘as warranted by security considerations’


tsa electronic ait body screening

TSA electronic ait body screening TSA officers give a demonstration of the first advanced imaging technology unit at JFK International airport in October 2010.Photograph: Michael Nagle/Getty Images

The Transportation Security Agency has ended a policy that allows any passenger to opt out of an electronic screening, under a new directive issued last week.

In a report issued quietly on 18 December – days before one of the busiest travel periods of the year – the US travel security agency said some passengers will still be allowed to opt out of the full-body electronic screening and go through a physical search instead. But some may now be forced to undergo the electronic screening by airport security.

“Passengers undergoing screening will still have the option to decline an AIT screening in favor of a physical screening,” said TSA spokesman Mike England, in a statement to the Guardian.

“However, some passengers will still be required to undergo AIT screenings as warranted by security considerations in order to safeguard transportation security.”

The screening, called “advanced imaging technology”, permits the agency to identify nonmetallic images and liquids. It’s unclear what will prompt TSA agents to decide which passengers should receive a mandatory electronic screening. According to the report issued earlier this month: “While passengers may generally decline AIT screening in favor of physical screening, TSA may direct mandatory AIT screening for some passengers.”

The TSA does not store any personally identifiable information obtained through the screening, the report stated.

Jim Harper, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, said the electronic screening achieves the “function of the strip search, without exposing the person to the cold”.

“There’s some tradeoffs,” Harper told the Guardian, “but it’s analogous to a strip search.”

The ramifications of the TSA’s policy shift will be unknown for some time, Harper said, as it will depend on “whatever increment society will tolerate”.

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Can You Spot the Contraband in These Airport Baggage X-Rays? – `ALEX DAVIES 12.22.15. . 7:00 AM

1 / OF 16 . Caption: Can you spot the contraband in this x-ray? SIMULSCAN Gallery Image SLIDE: 2 / OF 16 . Caption: Pliers, like screwdrivers and wrenches, aren't allowed in carry-on baggage in the US, unless they're under seven inches in length. SIMULSCAN Gallery Image SLIDE: 3 / OF 16 . Caption: Can you spot the contraband in this x-ray? SIMULSCAN Gallery Image SLIDE: 4 / OF 16 . Caption: This is just a toy gun, but the TSA bans "realistic replicas of firearms" in carry-on bags. Gallery Image SLIDE: 5 / OF 16 . Caption: Can you spot the contraband in this x-ray? SIMULSCAN SLIDE: 6 / OF 16 . Caption: Remember, no more than 3.4 ounces of liquids or gels per container. This is a jar of body cream. SIMULSCAN Advertisement SLIDE: 7 / OF 16 . Caption: Can you spot the contraband in this x-ray? SIMULSCAN Gallery Image SLIDE: 8 / OF 16 . Caption: This knife should be pretty easy to spot.  SIMULSCAN Gallery Image SLIDE: 9 / OF 16 . Caption: Can you spot the contraband in this x-ray? SIMULSCAN Gallery Image SLIDE: 10 / OF 16 . Caption: Along with "cutting and thrusting weapons," the TSA bans pocket knives. SIMULSCAN Gallery Image SLIDE: 11 / OF 16 . Caption: Can you spot the contraband in this x-ray? SIMULSCAN SLIDE: 12 / OF 16 . Caption: You can just see the handle of this gun.  SIMULSCAN Advertisement SLIDE: 13 / OF 16 . Caption: Can you spot the contraband in this x-ray? SIMULSCAN Gallery Image SLIDE: 14 / OF 16 . Caption: Knives aren't allowed, "except for plastic or round bladed butter knives." This is neither. SIMULSCAN Gallery Image SLIDE: 15 / OF 16 . Caption: Can you spot the contraband in this x-ray? SIMULSCAN Gallery Image SLIDE: 16 / OF 16 . Caption: Sorry, no aerosol cans of hairspray allowed. SIMULSCAN Related Galleries  MadMaxFuryRoadImmortan The Best Movies of 2015 (According to WIRED)  Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (PC, Xbox One): In the best of all possible worlds, this game would herald the return of local multiplayer, sitting on the couch, bonding with a buddy over a screen full of lights and adventure. Take control of an adorable pilot in an adorable galaxy full of love and also laserbeam-shooting frogs, steer a ship that looks and handles like a sliced mango, and try to save love itself. You can't go this ride alone, though; bring along a trusty pet helper, or, ideally, plug in that second controller and enlist the help of someone you trust. With the power of friendship, not even the meanest baddies in this or any spacetime can stand in your way.---Jake Muncy The Best Games You Might Have Missed in 2015  bw-speaker-featured We Pick the Gear of the Year, From Phones to Drones  Gallery Image SLIDE: 1 / OF 16 . Caption:

1 / OF 16 .

The TSA has a long list of things you can’t bring onto a commercial flight these days. Scissors. Cigarette lighters. Car airbags. Pool cues. And of course, guns, knives, bombs, and other weapons.

If you’ve taken a plane (or follow the TSA on Instagram), you’ve probably wondered how the airport security officers who scan carry-on bags watch for all those threats simultaneously. You’ve probably pondered how well you’d do the job. And—admit it—you’ve craned your neck to peek at their screens, trying to suss out the contents of someone else’s carry-on.

Here’s your chance to take a closer look: The gallery above includes eight x-ray images of luggage, each containing contraband of some sort, including firearms (some real, some fake), knives, and, most devious of all, excessive liquids and gels.

Simulscan, an Italian company that offers computer-based x-ray screening training, provided an inside look at the screening process when it gave us these photos. CEO Roberto Sergnese was a security expert at Continental, PanAm, and American Airlines before starting the company. He says becoming adept at checking luggage for contraband requires answering three questions: What are you looking for? What does it look like? What does it look like in an x-ray image?

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TSA’s competence in doubt – By Keith Laing – 06/03/15 06:00 AM EDT

The competence of the Transportation Security Administration is being called into question after agents failed to find fake explosives and weapons in more than 60 tests at the nation’s largest airports.

Acting TSA Administrator Melvin Carraway was removed from office on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the report’s findings went public, and lawmakers are demanding a broader overhaul of the agency before it’s too late.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said the results of the undercover TSA probe were “shocking,” and called for “immediate action.”

“This has got to be a top-to-bottom effort looking at the trainers, how we hire them, how we train them, how they perform their jobs, looking at the equipment that’s supposed to detect a lot of this stuff,” Coats said on Fox News.

The TSA is coming under scrutiny, after the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general (IG) documented a series of undercover stings in which agents tried to pass through security with prohibited items.

The undercover agents made it through security in nearly all the tests — 67 of 70 — including one instance where a TSA screener failed to find a fake bomb, even after the undercover agent set off a magnetometer. The screener reportedly let the agent through with the fake bomb taped to his back, having missed it during a pat-down.

The leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee expressed alarm over the findings, warning they could encourage groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to attempt an attack.

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The TSA’s Ban on Uncharged Cellphones Isn’t as Stupid as It Sounds – BY ALEX DAVIES     07.10.14  |     6:30 AM  |  



The Transportation Security Administration has found yet another way to make traveling terrible: Passengers boarding U.S.-bound flights at some foreign airports will not be allowed to board with electronic devices that don’t have enough juice to turn on. Forget to charge your gadget and being stuck in line without the joy of checking Twitter is the least of your worries. You’ll have to throw your phone away when it’s finally your turn to run the screening gauntlet.

The new rule—announced with no explanation of why it’s been created—has been widely and swiftly lampooned as one more example of TSA nonsense. It’s impressive that the agency has managed to make the already crummy ordeal of flying even worse. But don’t assume this is more TSA idiocy just yet.

The rule change may be obnoxious, but it’s not stupid, says Rafi Ron, the former director of security at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport, notorious for its strict screening procedures. The TSA is likely responding to new intelligence that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has developed explosives that are difficult to detect with current technology, Ron says. That calls for a change in procedure.

“I think that the measures that are taken make a lot of sense,” Ron says.

It should be noted that Ron is not a TSA apologist. He’s the guy who called the agency’s decision to make us all remove our shoes in response to Richard Reid’s shoe bomb debacle “an extremely unintelligent conclusion.”

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Dear America, I Saw You Naked – By JASON EDWARD HARRINGTON January 30, 2014

And yes, we were laughing. Confessions of an ex-TSA agent.

ARLINGTON, VA - DECEMBER 30:  Images produced by a

On Jan. 4, 2010, when my boss saw my letter to the editor in the New York Times, we had a little chat.

It was rare for the federal security director at Chicago O’Hare to sit down with her floor-level Transportation Security Administration officers—it usually presaged a termination—and so I was nervous as I settled in across the desk from her. She was a woman in her forties with sharp blue eyes that seemed to size you up for placement in a spreadsheet. She held up a copy of the newspaper, open to the letters page. My contribution, under the headline “To Stop a Terrorist: No Lack of Ideas,” was circled in blue pen.

One week earlier, on Christmas Day 2009, a man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had tried to detonate 80 grams of a highly explosive powder while on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. He had smuggled the bomb aboard the plane in a pouch sewn into his underwear. It was a masterpiece of post-9/11 tragicomedy: Passengers tackled and restrained Abdulmutallab for the remainder of the flight, and he succeeded in burning nothing besides his own genitals.

The TSA saw the near-miss as proof that aviation security could not be ensured without the installation of full-body scanners in every U.S. airport. But the agency’s many critics called its decision just another knee-jerk response to an attempted terrorist attack. I agreed, and wrote to the Times saying as much. My boss wasn’t happy about it.

“The problem we have here is that you identified yourself as a TSA employee,” she said.

They were words I had heard somewhere before. Suddenly, the admonishment from our annual conduct training flashed through my head—self-identifying as a government employee in a public forum may be grounds for termination.

I was shocked. I had been sure the letter would fall under the aegis of public concern, but it looked as though my boss wanted to terminate me. I scrambled for something to say.

“I thought the First Amendment applied here.”

She leaned back in her chair, hands up, palms outfaced. Now she was on the defensive.

“I’m not trying to tread upon your First Amendment rights,” she said. “All I’m saying is: Couldn’t you have run those First Amendment rights past the legal department first?”

She dismissed me with the assurance that we would discuss the matter further at some point in the future.

I never heard anything more about it during the next three years of my employment at the TSA, save for some grumbling from one upper-level manager (“What’s this I hear about you writing letters to the New York Times? You can’t do that here.”) It was the last time I would speak out as a government employee under my real name.

But it was by no means the last time I would speak out.

Please read the rest of the story here: