Archive for Airline Safety

Security Theater

Good evening, I’m Alistair Crooke. Welcome to Security Theater. Tonight’s episode follows on the 96% failure rate of the TSA in security tests this summer.

Do enjoy:

Throughout this year, I have testified — before this Committee and others — regarding my concerns about TSA’s ability to execute its important mission.

While I cannot talk about the specifics in this setting, I am able to say that we conducted the audit with sufficient rigor to satisfy the standards contained within the Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards, that the tests were conducted by auditors within our Office of Audits without any special knowledge or training, and that the test results were disappointing and troubling. We ran multiple tests at eight different airports of different sizes, including large category X airports across the country, and tested airports using private screeners as part of the Screening Partnership Program. The results were consistent across every airport.

Our testing was designed to test checkpoint operations in real world conditions. It was not designed to test specific, discrete segments of checkpoint operations, but rather the system as a whole. The failures included failures in the technology, failures in TSA procedures, and human error. We found layers of security simply missing. It would be misleading to minimize the rigor of our testing, or to imply that our testing was not an accurate reflection of the effectiveness of the totality of aviation security.

As I highlighted, they used people who had no clue how to fool the TSA, yet still “the test results were disappointing and troubling”.

If you don’t remember how bad it was:

My remarks were described as “unusually blunt testimony from a government witness,” and I will confess that it was. However, those remarks were born of frustration that TSA was assessing risk inappropriately and did not have the ability to perform basic management functions in order to meet the mission the American people expect of it. These issues were exacerbated, in my judgment, by a culture, developed over time, which resisted oversight and was unwilling to accept the need for change in the face of an evolving and serious threat. We have been writing reports highlighting some of these problems for years without an acknowledgment by TSA of the need to correct its deficiencies.

[A] culture, developed over time, which resisted oversight and was unwilling to accept the need for change in the face of an evolving and serious threat”? The TSA has been in existence only since early 2002! What time? What culture? It was founded in response to the most “serious threats” imaginable—how could it “resist” or be “unwilling to accept” anything? It sounds like it exists only to be a bureaucracy. You will not be surprised to learn that they are unionized.

The Inspector General assures us that the new TSA is more responsive and forward-thinking. It could not be less so. But short of treating them like Reagan treated the air traffic controllers, I see nothing changing. Bureaucracies and unions protect themselves, not vulnerable travelers.

And ISIS is planting bombs now.


Security is an Evolving Paradigm

“Security theater”? It’s a bomb:

An internal investigation of the Transportation Security Administration revealed security failures at dozens of the nation’s busiest airports, where undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials, ABC News has learned.

The series of tests were conducted by Homeland Security Red Teams who pose as passengers, setting out to beat the system.

According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints.

That’s a 96% fail rate for those playing long at home. Not even close enough for government work.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was apparently so frustrated by the findings he sought a detailed briefing on them last week at TSA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, according to sources. U.S. officials insisted changes have already been made at airports to address vulnerabilities identified by the latest tests.

“Upon learning the initial findings of the Office of Inspector General’s report, Secretary Johnson immediately directed TSA to implement a series of actions, several of which are now in place, to address the issues raised in the report,” the DHS said in a written statement to ABC News.

Signs like “Bulky Hanes Down Planes” and “Check the Junk in the Trunk” ought to get to the…bottom of the issue.

Or not:

In a 2013 hearing on Capitol Hill, then-TSA administrator John Pistole, described the Red Team as “super terrorists,” who know precisely which weaknesses to exploit.

“[Testers] know exactly what our protocols are. They can create and devise and conceal items that … not even the best terrorists would be able to do,” Pistole told lawmakers at a House hearing.

More recently, the DHS inspector general’s office concluded a series of undercover tests targeting checked baggage screening at airports across the country.

That review found “vulnerabilities” throughout the system, attributing them to human error and technological failures, according to a three-paragraph summary of the review released in September.

In addition, the review determined that despite spending $540 million for checked baggage screening equipment and another $11 million for training since a previous review in 2009, the TSA failed to make any noticeable improvements in that time.

Spend over half a billion dollars and still fall prey to human and technological failure. And you liberals wonder why we conservatives don’t trust government. Ever.


Good News, Bad News

The good news is that they finally found something in their search for the missing Malaysian plane:

The bad news is it’s not the plane.

But the good news is…oh, never mind:

That’s either an anchor or the ebola virus, I’m not quite sure.

The $90 million search for the long-missing MH370 plane has detected some surprising finds in the southern Indian Ocean – debris that is believed to be from an ancient shipwreck. Search teams from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau have detected “man-made objects,” such as an anchor from a ship, reports

Somewhere there may be descendants of those lost seamen who will be gladdened to learn the fates of their lost great-great-great grandfathers. May the loved ones of the missing aboard MH370 not have to wait so long.


Blood, Sweat, and Tears

You expect me to clean that up?


Airplane cabin cleaners have set up pickets outside a LaGuardia Airport terminal over health and safety issues.

About 200 Air Serv workers who support domestic flights at Terminal D began a 24-hour strike on Wednesday night.

They say their concerns include possible exposure to Ebola.

“The whole country is shivering, worried about the problems of Ebola,” said Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ Service Employees International Union. “Airport workers are on the front line of protecting the public, to protect the public we have to protect the workers.”

The workers, who are seeking to unionize, said they’re sometimes exposed to blood, feces and vomit but are not equipped with appropriate protective gear.

I first heard about this strike yesterday, but didn’t get that it was tied to Ebola. And I can’t blame them.

The government says no, no, no, we can’t stop flights from West Africa (more accurately, passengers, as there are no direct flights from West Africa). And we expect these people to clean up the…bodily fluids of people on those flights? Without a Hazmat suit?

This is what happens when you lead from behind. Ebola will never come here, Obama assured us. It’s a JV disease. Now they’re trying to play catch-up, checking random passengers for fever. Which can be beaten with a couple of Advil or Tylenol. Imagine trying to fly with just a mild flu. You register 100.8 degrees and you get sent off to the sick ward, with who knows how many people and whatever disease they may have.

The Ebola outbreak is chaos theory in action: the butterfly wing-flap in Monrovia results in panic in Dallas and a work stoppage in Queens. So far. Good luck trying to keep up.

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Who Wants to Accompany the First Lady to China?

Whoa, don’t everybody answer all at once.

Come on, it’ll be fun!

The First Lady will travel to China from March 19-26, 2014. She will be visiting Beijing from March 20-23, Xi’an on March 24, and Chengdu from March 25-26. During her trip, the First Lady will meet with Madame Peng, the spouse of China’s President Xi Jinping. She will also visit a university and a high school in Beijing, and a high school in Chengdu. Additional details about the First Lady’s trip will be announced in the coming weeks. Accompanying Mrs. Obama on this trip will be her mother, Mrs. Marian Robinson, and daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama.

The First Lady is encouraging students and classrooms across the U.S. to follow her trip by signing up for updates throughout the visit.

Who doesn’t want to read about people you don’t know traveling around the world at your expense? It’s like credit card fraud and royalty watching combined.

You didn’t think I meant really accompanying her, did you?

You couldn’t afford it trust me:

President Obama and his family have come under heavy scrutiny for the unprecedented high travel costs during his time in office – and a week-long trip to China for four members of the First Family, members of the Secret Service and other members of the White House staff will likely cost several millions of dollars.

The president’s pricey travels have become so controversial that Judicial Watch was forced to sue the Secret Service and Defense Department to get them to turn over records on the amount of taxpayer money used to fly the First Family all over the world – in many cases for vacations or fundraisers – over the last two years of his administration.

According to Judicial Watch, it cost more than $11 million for the president and his wife to travel to Africa to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December of last year. According to the New York Daily News, the Obamas were only in Africa for ‘less than 13 hours.’

But that trip was nothing compared to a 2013 visit the Obamas made to the Dark Continent, which reportedly cost tax payer more than $100 million.

For two vacations the Obamas took in 2013 – one to Hawaii and one to Martha’s Vineyard – records show that it cost taxpayers a whopping $7,396,531 in flight expenses alone. That figure also includes travel expenses for the president’s trip to California to file the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

During an August trip to California, during which Obama attended a party held by Democratic fundraiser Jeffrey Katzenberg and again appeared on the Tonight Show, taxpayers paid more than $2 million in travel expenses for the president and his security detail.

The president himself won’t be making the trip. He’ll be in Belgium. (Draw your own conclusions.)

Will Michelle be hectoring the Chinese about their dining habits as she does here?


One of Guangzhou’s signature dishes, luó bó niú zá is nothing more than a stew made with beef hearts, livers, spleens, stomachs, intestines, and lungs, along with some large chunks of soft, white radish. They are all boiled together in a large drum of water with a shelf near the top for organs that are finished cooking…. When you order a bowl of luó bó niú zá, the vendor will reach a ladle deep inside to scoop up some radish pieces from the bottom of the barrel, chop up some of the offal off of the offal shelf, and dump both components into a bowl with a small amount of the broth.

Let’s move!

And what better quaff to go with cow spleen?

Got fermented camel’s milk?


Air China

It’s a contradiction in terms:

When China set a goal to leap from being a tiny aerospace-industry player to a direct threat to Airbus and Boeing, few scoffed at the idea, given Beijing’s track record of using deep government pockets to push state-owned firms up the ladder.

But as leaders of the global aerospace industry gather in Beijing for an International Air Transport Association meeting that kicks off on Sunday, a closer examination by Reuters shows that the potential challenge from China might be greatly overblown, and that its aircraft sector is unlikely to pose any credible competition for at least a decade.

In interviews with executives from three different technology suppliers working with Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac) to develop passenger jets, Reuters has learned that various tests over the past two years have identified flaws in the ARJ21’s wings, wiring and computer systems.

During a stress test in mid-2010, the wings of the ARJ21 broke, or “cracked” in one executive’s description, before the pressure applied reached regulatory norms.

In further examinations conducted last year, the avionics system — the brain of the plane — failed at times to work properly, highlighting what one of the three suppliers executives described as a “system integration problem.” Faults in the wiring were also discovered in those tests, according to the supplier executives.

“You should have seen the faces (of Comac engineers and executives)” said one of the three suppliers, who was at the 2010 test in a lab in the central Chinese city of Xi’an, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There was uncomfortable silence in the room.”

You mean they weren’t inscrutable? (I withdraw the comment.)


Spiking the Nuclear Football

While President Obama was taking his victory lap a year after SEAL Team 6 greased OBL, declaring Al Qaeda as defunct as Gimbels, Al Qaeda begged to differ:

He could have breezed through security at any airport.

A terrorist wearing the latest underwear bomb would not have been caught by the TSA’s most conscientious human screeners or its highest-tech fullbody scanners, experts told The Post yesterday. But the country ducked a disaster by employing an age-old weapon: a double agent.

With the help of American allies in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the secret agent inserted himself into the terrorists’ secret inner circle, and became so trusted, the thugs accepted his offer to board a US-bound plane wearing the bomb.

Instead, the agent turned it over to the United States.

But experts said that as far as future suicide bomb attempts are concerned, current technology is not good enough to find nonmetallic explosive devices like the newest underwear bomb — despite Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s assurance that there was a “high likelihood’’ the bomber would have been stopped.
One top law-enforcement official insisted, “They would not have gotten him.”

This is one of those occasions when US security can proclaim a victory. Usually, it’s only the failures that make the news.

Which makes you wonder:

Federal investigators are conducting a probe into who leaked information about an al-Qaida plot in which an explosive device was to have been detonated on a U.S.-bound airline flight, a law enforcement official said Wednesday.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity about the leak investigation, which is just getting under way.

An anonymous official leaked information about a leak investigation? Typical.

The federal investigation is the latest move in an aggressive campaign by the Obama administration to crack down on leaks, even as it has supported proposed legislation that would shield reporters from having to identify their sources. The administration has already brought at least six criminal cases against people for discussing government secrets with reporters, more than under any previous presidency.

A spokesman for the AP, Paul Colford, said in a statement that the news organization “acted carefully and with extreme deliberation in its reporting on the underwear bomb plot and its subsequent decision to publish.”

“As the AP has reported, we distributed our exclusive report on the underwear bomb only after officials assured us — on Monday — that their security concerns had been satisfied and we learned that the White House would announce the news the next day,” Colford said.

I’ve got an angle for the FBI to investigate. Given Team Obama’s penchant for boasting (you would have thought Obama himself had caught Osama, with nothing but a lariat and a Swiss Army knife), maybe they leaked the news. They announced it publicly the next day anyway, and it was a national security victory—but as was also true of the OBL raid, premature jubilation can be an embarrassing problem.


Is That a Colostomy Bag, or are You Just Glad to See Me?

I’m pi**ed-off it took so long, and I’m disappointed that a liberal weenie like Schumer is the initiator (rather than someone of a more libertarian bent), but most of what I have to say can be summed up thusly: FINALLY

Two New York politicians urged the Transportation Security Administration on Sunday to provide passenger advocates on site at airport screenings after four elderly women complained of intrusive searches by security agents in recent months.

Senator Charles Schumer and State Senator Michael Gianaris told Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano and TSA Administrator John Pistole in a letter that an on-site passenger advocate would help strike the right balance between security and protecting vulnerable travelers.

“I appreciate the TSA’s work to keep air passengers safe, but passengers should not be humiliated and degraded during their travels,” Gianaris said in a statement accompanying the letter.

The call came after several elderly women came forward in the busy travel weeks around Thanksgiving to complain they were “strip searched by TSA agents”, including three at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the letter said.

On Sunday, the TSA denied on its blog that the women had been strip searched.

“TSA does not and has never conducted strip searches, and no strip searches occurred in any of these incidents,” the official statement posted by TSA blogger Bob Burns said.

Asking a government agency to be the guarantor of civil liberties is like asking a fox to police a chicken coop. If these abuses (and so, so many others) had happened under Bush, there would be calls for impeachment. And, in general, I think the solution to government intrusion is less government, not more.

But in absence of common sense or human intelligence, I guess an advocate will have to do.


Heckuva Job, Bambi

Obama has clearly failed in his effort to bring us together—as the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party clearly show. But he’s united the world in utter contempt for his clueless leadership.

See, Israel? You’re not alone:

Weapons smuggled from Libya after the collapse of Muammar Qaddafi’s government are flowing through the surrounding region, the president of neighboring Niger said, a development that threatens to destabilize a swath of the continent already struggling against ethnic unrest and a regional branch of Al Qaeda.

“Arms were stolen in Libya and are being disseminated all over the region,” Niger’s president Mahamadou Issoufou said following a meeting with South African president Jacob Zuma. “Saharan countries are facing terrorist threats, arms and criminal trafficking. The Libya crisis is amplifying those crises.”

Issoufou’s remarks came days after Niger’s military clashed with arms smugglers traveling from Libya. Six smugglers and one soldier died in Sunday’s battle, he said.

Niger’s foreign minister Mohamed Bazoum said the battle was the fourth such incident since February, the beginning of the uprising in Libya that resulted in Qaddafi’s overthrow and the widespread looting of his vast armories.

We noted the story the other day that Israel is having to outfit all El Al flights with missile-avoidance technology, out of just such fears of Libyan arms reaching the Arabs of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. We also mentioned then—and repeat now—the rank hypocrisy of the Liberal-Media Complex in decrying the looting of Iraqi antiquities after Shock & Awe (not by us, but by the very people we were trying to defeat), while remaining silent about this fiasco. Most or all of the antiquities were recovered; a Boeing 767 pierced by a SAM will be significantly more difficult.

What were you thinking, Obama?

PS: “Smart” people like to say that Al Qaeda has been degraded as a fighting force. This ought to help them recover, don’t you think?



A couple of choice nuggets from Mark Steyn’s weekly column:

“This plant indirectly supports hundreds of other jobs right here in Toledo,” Obama told the workers at Chrysler. “After all, without you, who’d eat at Chet’s or Inky’s or Rudy’s? Manufacturers from Michigan to Massachusetts are looking for new engineers to build advanced batteries for American-made electric cars. And obviously, Chet’s and Inky’s and Zinger’s, they’ll all have your business for some time to come.”

A couple of days later, Chet’s announced it was closing after nine decades. “It was the economy and the smoking ban that hurt us more than anything,” said the owner.

When historians look back at the fraud and hoax and mass hysteria that was the Obamenon, they will wonder how effing dumb any so-called advanced civilization could be. He was no magician, there was no sleight of hand. He just told us that the lady we saw lying dismembered on stage in a pool of her own blood was successfully sawed in half, and we believed him. It didn’t hurt that the media, in the personage of a fat, hairy-bellied, middle-aged bald guy, in fishnet stockings and a sequined leotard, mimed astonishment at the fetes of the Amazing Prezkin. Ta-da!

I will have more to say on historians in a later post, but back to Steyn:

Random example from the headlines: The paramilitarization of the education bureaucracy. The federal Department of Education doesn’t employ a single teacher but it does have a SWAT team: They kicked down a front door in Stockton, California last week and handcuffed Kenneth Wright (erroneously) in connection with a student-loan “investigation.” “We can confirm that we executed a search warrant,” said Department of Education spokesperson Gina Burress.

The Department of Education issues search warrants? Who knew? The Brokest Nation in History is the only country in the developed world whose education secretary has his own Delta Force.

A government bureaucracy with no reason to exist has quietly built itself a rapid deployment force for (erroneously) collecting on delinquent loans.

Do you hear me? Am I making myself clear? The Department of Education, an invention of Jimmy Carter, employs shock troops. When not collecting on bad debts, they are known to frisk young children for plastic forks and to wrestle peanut butter cookies to the ground.

And speaking of frisking:

A 24-year old woman has been awarded compensation of $2,350 after TSA agents exposed her breasts to all and sundry at the Corpus Christi Airport security line and provided Weineresque play-by-play commentary. “We regret that the passenger had an unpleasant experience,” said a TSA spokesgroper, also very Weinerly. But hey, those are a couple of cute bumps on the road, lady!

This happened months ago, but who can keep straight all the examples of inappropriate behavior and inexplicable selections for “enhanced techniques”?

Let’s refresh your mammary:

Murley, pictured above, charged in her lawsuit that she was “singled out for extended search procedures,” and that a TSA agent frisked her and “pulled Plaintiff’s blouse completely down, exposing Plaintiff’s breasts to everyone in the area.”

TSA employees, Murley added, “joked and laughed about the incident for an extended period of time.” After leaving the security line to be “consoled by an acquaintance who had brought her to the airport,” Murley returned to the line, where a male TSA worker said that he had wished he was there when she first passed through. The employee, Murley recalled, added that “he would just have to watch the video.” The incident left Murley “extremely embarrassed and humiliated,” according to her complaint.

If you’re wondering why she got only $2,350, it’s because that’s all they thought the government was good for. A bigger check would have bounced.

If you’re wondering why the abject humiliation of a young woman by irresponsible and unaccountable louts in uniform has stirred barely a whisper of outrage (poor ACLU, stricken with palsy), take a number. We should get to you by November 2012.


Busty Busted

Ordinarily, I’d support any initiative that enables one to grope beauty queens. But I had to go shoot my mouth off and condemn from the get-go the TSA enhanced security nonsense as an appalling assault on personal liberty.

So, I’ll have to content myself with a told-you-so:

What bothered me most was when she ran the back of her hands down my behind, felt around my breasts, and even came in contact with my vagina! Honestly, I was in shock, especially since the woman at LAX never actually touched me there. The TSA employee at DFW touched private area 4 times, going up both legs from behind and from the front, each time touching me there. Was I at my gynecologist’s office? No! This was crazy!

I just kept thinking, “What have I done to deserve this treatment as an upstanding, law-abiding American citizen?” Am I a threat to US security? I was Miss USA, for Pete’s sake!

Hey, if future beauty queens can get felt up, why not washed up has-beens?

At best, it’s random. At worst, it gives pervs a gold ticket to fondle anyone they like. And it does nothing—nothing—for security. Nothing.

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Slaughterhouse 5

What’s the old expression? Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And the power to reach into your pants means the power to pick you pocket:

Two agents working for the Transportation Security Administration have been arrested after stealing from passengers at New York’s JFK airport.

The New York Daily News reports that Davon Webb and Persad Coumar were ratted out by a colleague. Both have worked for the TSA for over five years.

The theft that doomed the two involved pocketing $40,000 from a passenger’s bag. After being interrogated they confessed to stealing as much as $160,000 from passengers, selecting victims’ bags at random.

A representative of the TSA told the Daily News that the agency’s 50,000 employees should not be stigmatized by the “disgraceful actions of a few.”

The “few” bad apples include Michael Arato, a Newark TSA supervisor who pleaded guilty on Monday to stealing thousands of dollars from passengers at the New Jersey airport.

Arato partnered with a subordinate TSA agent to conduct the thefts. The two agents stole tens of thousands of dollars from passengers while either subjecting them to additional screening or while screening their bags.

Yet another TSA employee was arrested on January 27 in Memphis, Tennessee for attempting to steal a passenger’s laptop from a screening area.

If you add these bad apples to the bad apples that download x-ray images of passengers in their birthday suits and the bad apples that call over their buddies to take a look at some woman’s thong and the bad apples that select passengers to screen based on the size of their rack—plus the (relatively speaking) good apples who decide that the all-American family of four is a threat to national security, requiring the application of latex gloves to sensitive areas—you have a melange of apples fit only for hog slop.

When the archives are written, the total resignation over this level of intrusion into our lives will mark a key turning point. We won’t let our government employ sophisticated identification and psychological profiling to maintain our safety—but we will allow them to have a Kodak moment with our junk. And the political Left, which screamed bloody murder at the thought of wiretapping overseas terrorist’s phone calls (recently renewed without a Leftist peep under Obama), merely drops its drawers and bends over. We’d better all get used to it.

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