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Tag: airplanes

TSA Secretly Tracking Travelers Not on Government Watch Lists

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Federal air marshals are conducting surveillance on thousands of unsuspecting Americans as part of a secret TSA program called “Quiet Skies.’”

The Boston Globe reported that the undisclosed surveillance targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” citing a TSA bulletin from March. 

The bulletin indicates the program is intended to diminish threats to commercial flights posed by “unknown or partially known terrorists.”

Here’s how the program works: All U.S. citizens are subjected to screenings, and thousands of Americans have already been surveilled. Travelers are then added the Quiet Skies list for up to 90 days or three encounters. At no time are Americans alerted they are on the list.

It’s unclear what prompts the federal agency to add a traveler to the watch list.

Americans added to the list are then monitored by marshals, who fly with the travelers and look for sleeping patterns, “excessive fidgeting,” a “cold penetrating stare” or an “Adam’s apple jump.”

The Globe questions whether the tracking is legal:

Quiet Skies represents a major departure for TSA. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the agency has traditionally placed armed air marshals on routes it considered potentially higher risk, or on flights with a passenger on a terrorist watch list. Deploying air marshals to gather intelligence on civilians not on a terrorist watch list is a new assignment, one that some air marshals say goes beyond the mandate of the US Federal Air Marshal Service. Some also worry that such domestic surveillance might be illegal. Between 2,000 and 3,000 men and women, so-called flying FAMs, work the skies.

FBI Warns of Soaring Cases of Sexual Assaults on Airplanes

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI is warning flyers that sexual assaults on airplanes are soaring.

The bureau, which handles criminal activity aboard domestic airplanes, said sexual assaults jump from 38 in 2014 to 63 in 2017.

It wasn’t clear what caused the spike in sexual assaults, but the FBI said most of the victims were women and children.

Sexual assaults also are more likely to occur on long flights, especially when the victim is sleeping or has been drinking.

The FBI is encouraging victims to immediately report sexual assaults so that agents can respond in time to investigate and make an arrest.

TSA Failures Undermine Passenger Safety on Airplanes

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

From missing weapons carried onto commercial aircraft by travelers to poor vetting and training of airport screeners, the TSA is failing in its mission “in many ways” to keep flyers safe, argues The Hill opinion contributor Martin Schwartz.

For one, the Homeland Security Inspector General found that TSA missed 95% of weapons carried onto airplanes by undercover investigators.

Since the agency is failing to prevent many travelers from carrying forbidden items onto airplanes, the TSA announced it plans to increase highly intrusive personal frisks of passengers.

The TSA also has failed to fully deploy the nearly foolproof full-body scanners.

The agency’s high-level supervisors also have been fired for poor performance, which trickles down to the rank and file.

This comes at a time when a record number of travelers are caught with weapons, especially firearms.

“For an agency that must deal with the public every day at transit facilities, and that has existed for well over a decade, this is an inexcusable record of failure,” Schwartz wrote. “It strongly suggests that the TSA should be abolished, with its duties turned over to well-trained airline, ship or railroad personnel working under the direct supervision of specialized law enforcement professionals, namely officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).”

FBI Warns of Federal Consequences of Pointing Lasers at Aircraft

Light from a Laser pointer via Wikipedia

Light from a Laser pointer via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Aim a laser at an aircraft and you will face serious consequences, the FBI warned.

The Clarion-Ledger reports that the FBI’s Jackson Field Office recently investigated a laser pointer attack.

“It’s actually a quite serious federal crime, and we want to message that concern to raise awareness, but if that awareness campaign doesn’t work, we do have law enforcement and judicial outcomes up to five years in federal prison and an $11,000 fine,” said Jackson Field Office Special Agent in Charge Donald Alway.

The FBI has seen a more than 1,100% spike in people targeting aircraft with lasers since the bureau began keeping statistics in 2005. In 2015, there were 7,703 FAA-reported laser incidents.

“What can happen is that we think of a very small pinpoint size beam of light, but it spreads out and can cover several feet in diameter,” Alway said.

TSA’s List of Suspicious Behaviors Is Revealed As ACLU Sues for Document

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

What do airport screeners look for when they are trying to detect suspicious behavior?

The suggestions are part of the TSA’s controversial behavior-detection program, Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques, which outlines suspicious actions.

Although the TSA considers the list of behaviors to be confidential, it was posted online.

The ACLU, which is concerned that the list encourages racial and ethnic profiling, is suing the TSA to force the release of details of the program, The Washington Post wrote.

Here are some of the suspicious behaviors: tightly gripping a bag, appearing disoriented and whistling.

“Airports are rich environments for the kind of stress, exhaustion, or confusion that the TSA apparently finds suspicious, and research has long made clear that trying to judge people’s intentions based on supposed indicators as subjective or commonplace as these just doesn’t work,” Hugh Handeyside, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement.