TSA should stop banning items, stop 'unending nightmare' of USA air travel

It might be no surprise to you, but the TSA has made air travel within the USA an "unending nightmare." What might surprise you is the man who said it. Kip Hawley served as the head of the Transportation Security Administration from July 2005 to January 2009, but he said, "Airport security in America is broken." Hawley suggested American air travel "would be safer if we allowed knives, lighters and liquids and focused on disrupting new terror plots." His comments have ticked off Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano who said Hawley's ridicule of the TSA "bred contempt" among the public.


The public already has plenty of contempt for the TSA and DHS is deluding itself to believe otherwise. The TSA was called "useless" security theater by a former FBI terrorism expert. In fact the TSA knows the public feels contempt for the agency, but that didn't stop it from threatening free speech. Networkworld reported "First Amendment be damned, out of control TSA threatens bloggers." Then this weekend the Wall Street Journal published Kip Hawley's article which stated, "More than a decade after 9/11, it is a national embarrassment that our airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people whom it is meant to protect."

Hawley wrote:

The crux of the problem, as I learned in my years at the helm, is our wrongheaded approach to risk. In attempting to eliminate all risk from flying, we have made air travel an unending nightmare for U.S. passengers and visitors from overseas, while at the same time creating a security system that is brittle where it needs to be supple.

MercuryNews reported Napolitano was not pleased with Hawley, but why be mad? Hawley did more than bash; he suggested we embrace risk, reduce hassle and laid out five ways that airport security could be fixed.

According to Hawley, a better airport security system would include:

  1. No more banned items.
  2. Allow all liquids.
  3. Give TSA officers more flexibility and rewards for initiative, and hold them accountable.
  4. Eliminate baggage fees.
  5. Randomize security.

Meanwhile, in a pilot program at Washington Dulles International Airport, the TSA is testing automated ID scanners to check travel documents. The technology is called "Credential Authentication Technology/Boarding Pass Scanning System" (CAT-BPSS). It "will scan a passenger's boarding pass and photo ID, and automatically verify the names provided on both documents and then match and authenticate the boarding pass." TSA blogger Bob announced, "The technology also identifies altered or fraudulent photo IDs by analyzing and comparing security features embedded in the IDs."

Security consultant Kiersten Todt Coon, president and CEO of Liberty Group Ventures LLC, told msnbc, "When you use machines to authenticate documents, you minimize the room for error. And when you take the human element out of it, [agents] can focus on the things that look anomalous when people are going through security."

As mentioned previously, MercuryNews reported on Napolitano's displeasure at Hawley's TSA criticism, but the article was about DHS opening an entire different can of worms by contemplating proactive cyberattacks. Homeland Security is considering "having tech companies participate with the government in ‘proactive' efforts to combat hackers based in foreign countries." Napolitano added that "some restrictions might have to be placed on businesses participating in such cyber activities because ‘what you are doing is authorizing a private entity to do what might otherwise be construed as an attack on another entity'."

Her comments alarmed Melissa Hathaway, a former top federal cybersecurity official with the National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. "The private sector is not allowed to perform what is an inherently government activity without a law permitting such activity." Hathaway said, "An electronic pre-emptive strike against a foreign cyber adversary ‘could be interpreted as an act of war or armed aggression' depending on who is targeted." EFF staff technologist Dan Auerbach added he "fears some proactive efforts -- such as shutting down a computer network that crooks have infiltrated -- might harm others who legitimately use the same network."

Speaking of contempt, have you tweeted to your congressman your disapproval and opposition to CISPA and the hovering up of too much information yet? This is Stop Cyber Spying Week. A coalition of civil liberties organizations warn that the Cyber Intelligence Sharing & Protection Act "would cut a loophole in all existing privacy laws allowing the government to suck up data on everyday Internet users. We can't let that happen." The handy-dandy new Congressional Twitter handle detection tool makes it easy to protest CISPA and the EFF is collecting some of the best #CongressTMI and #CISPA tweets.


Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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