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Here's a feel-good story to ease you into the holidays.
The Obama administration is preparing to issue a new set of guidelines that will for the first time ban national security agencies from conducting profiling based on race, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. There are already rules going back to 2003 banning racial profiling by most parts of the federal government, but those rules don't apply to national security agencies and don't encompass religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. These new guidelines are aimed at shoring up those oversights.
All well and good, unless you're the TSA, and part of your job is to apply extra scrutiny to people originating in places like Syria and Yemen just in case they're terrorists. In that case you'd be kind of screwed, unless you could get an exemption from the new restrictions. Want to guess how this story ends?
TSA / Airport Security / Airline Security / Carry-On Baggage / Carry-On Luggage / Holiday Travel / → All Tags
You thought the TSA was going to lighten up for the holidays. You read on Jaunted that the agency was letting passengers bring ice skates and even pies on board planes. Elsewhere you may have heard that top TSA officials were looking to loosen existing restrictions on some liquids for some travelers. Overall it seemed as if limitations on carry-on baggage were moving in the right direction.
How about instead of that, the TSA just goes ahead and bans all carry-on luggage over the holiday season? No exceptions. How would that suit you?
The TSA is making its annual "please don't make holiday travel more miserable than it already is" push, in which the agency begs travelers not to bring obviously prohibited items into checkpoints for at least the next few months. TSA officials try something like this every year, and it usually more or less completely fails. The problem isn't with the airport security organization, for once. The kind of person who tries to bring chemical-soaked sparklers on board an airplane - real example - just isn't the sort of person who reads TSA-related press releases. Or any press releases, really.
And yet here we are. This year the agency tried to get attention by throwing together a press event at just a single airport, gathering reporters for a show-and-tell at JFK. That's not a terrible idea as far as PR goes, because local reporters always need stories and this way things are easy for them. You give them a press kit, you issue a statement, and everyone is done in time for happy hour. We're not sure it'll actually make a difference, in the sense that we're pretty sure it won't make a difference. But it was a mildly entertaining show, and so you might as well know it happened.
Time for another edition of "People are Idiots, and That's Why We Can't Fix TSA." True story.
Many years ago DHS received a Congressional mandate to secure the nation's airports, which the department duly implemented by putting up TSA checkpoints everywhere. Critics of the agency almost immediately began to complain about its uselessness - "security theater" was a popular catchphrases - and some went so far as to accuse TSA of actively conspiring to destroy America.
After a while TSA responded with: "Listen, we can't just shut down inspections because Congress won't let us. How about instead we establish this new PreCheck system, where for only $85 you can pass a background check and breeze through security?"
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Last Wednesday TSA agents at Burbank detected a loaded gun in the carry-on of rapper Todd Anthony Shaw, known as Too Short or Too $hort depending on how stuffy you are. This kind of thing happens quite a lot. Almost always, the travelers are immediately cited, and often they're even allowed to proceed to the plane.
In this case Mr. Short walked slowly out of the airport in his socks, recovered his valet-parked car, and returned two days later with his lawyer. At that point he received a misdemeanor citation for possession of a loaded handgun in a public place. This entire incident, with all due respect, is batshit crazy.
You've probably heard about the Internet of Things: the idea that everything you own is going to be online. Your fridge will be able to talk to your car will be able to talk to your pacemaker.
You also may have heard that it's going to be a total cyber-security disaster. Today's hackers are able to get into your laptop or desktop. Tomorrow's hackers will be able - by definition - to get into everything. Right now they're able to damage your data. In the future they'll be able to damage actually existing things in the real world. Unless you're very, very, very careful, putting any device online could get you very easily hacked.
Now, knowing what you know, how likely do you think it is that TSA is using machines that are easily hacked?
TSA / Travel Politics / Politics Travel / Airline Fees / Travel News / Airline Security / Airport Security / → All Tags
As you know because you've been following along, the new TSA fees that we've been trashing since 2010 went into effect earlier this month. They had been jammed up for years by airlines - more on that below - but the administration finally managed to get them passed. The old caps, which had been set at $2.50 per flight segment with a $10 roof for a four-flight round trip, were abolished.
Would you believe that TSA may have taken advantage of the new situation to collect fees even higher than what Congress allowed? That's the argument being made by airlines, who are now suing the security agency. Game on.
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There's no shortage of domestic and international travel politics stories floating around. There's the potential for a new Cold War because of the MH17 downing. There's the 24 hour FAA ban on flights into Tel Aviv. There's even the ongoing nonsense about how airport security officials are threatening to confiscate electronics that run out of battery power during trans-Atlantic flights, which is something that happens literally all the time.
But this story about hiking airline security fees is - rightly - driving people absolutely out of their minds. We flagged this for you last month as a heads up, but we've actually been tracking these legislative efforts since 2010. The Obama administration has tried to raise the fees that travelers pay for security through the normal budget process, outside the normal budget process, and probably at least once via occult wizardry. Every time it was justified as a way to make people travel more, which is not a very good argument because it's not how supply and demand works.
Until mobile devices somehow magically charge themselves throughout your journey—you’re going to need a spot to plug in and charge up at the airport. The concourses and terminals have gotten a little bit better at adding ports and plugs, and now it seems like there’s a push overseas to add even more spots to charge up before your trip.
With that pesky new requirement regarding devices to be operational at airport security airports in London are pushing to get more options available to flyers.
Very quickly - before we get to the travel news in this post - can we just make a simple request? As you're about to read, airport security is getting bumped up across the world. This happened just as the 4th of July weekend kicked off. So things are going to be hectic enough without you idiots grinding checkpoints to a halt by trying to smuggle actual, real life, exploding fireworks on board airplanes. For fuck's sake.
Now that that's out of the way.
As we told you last Monday, various branches of the U.S. intelligence community have concluded that Yemen-linked jihadists, operating out of Syria, may be plotting to take down American and European airliners. The scheme would involve terrorists with Western passports slipping through security armed with a new generation of undetectable explosives. We suggested you might soon be seeing enhanced screening procedures.
Yesterday morning ABC News popped a story about a recent White House meeting - recent in the sense that it happened last week - in which top-level intelligence officials raised alarms about new threats to aiport security and airline security. Very short version: terrorists who have dug into Syria are reportedly working on a new generation of undetectable bombs, and so you will probably be feeling new security precautions both domestically and overseas. Happy Monday!
ABC got at least one source to worry "[this threat] is different and more disturbing than past aviation plots." Another talked about "creative" new bomb designs. The outlet also aired interviews on Sunday - which are embedded below, and included one with President Barack Obama - that were arguably even scarier.
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How is this nonsense still a story? How - after it broke more than a week ago, and was already hopelessly tired back then - are journalists still producing new copy about "outrage" and "fury"? What details remained unexplored through the first three dozen articles, such that we needed more information a week later?
If you don't troll conspiracy theory forums or have a Google Alert set up for TSA, you might not know about video documented barbarism under discussion. You'd be the only one though, since the YouTube upload has been viewed by over 200,000 people in the last 10 days. It's at the bottom of this post too. You're welcome.