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Tag: TSA

Significant Cuts to TSA Would Reduce Security at Time of Heightened Concerns about Terrorism

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s administration says it wants to make Americans safer from terrorism, but the TSA is cutting about $300 million from its budget in 2020, according to internal documents obtained by CNN.

To save the money, the TSA would eliminate screenings at more than 150 small- to medium-sized airports, reduce the number of full-time air marshals, cut the workforce at TSA headquarters and eliminate 50% in reimbursements to state and local law enforcement agencies for use of their K-9 units.

The TSA did not comment for the story.

Congress would still need to approve the cuts, and some congressional members have already spoken out about the reductions.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, of New Jersey and the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said the proposed reductions “could put at risk the safety of passengers and the security of our transportation systems.” 

“The intelligence is very clear that the threat to our transportation systems remains real, so I am baffled by this administration’s endless efforts to cut funding in this area,” Watson Coleman said in a statement.

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.

‘Guns Up’ Salute by Texas Tech Student Draws Unwanted Attention of TSA

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Texas Tech University sophomore got caught up in school spirit and made the “guns up” salute with her hands at an airport.

The 19-year-old’s Red Raider pride wasn’t shared by the TSA at Houston’s Hobby Airport, where she was pulled out of the security line and asked to show her ID to TSA ages agents, the Houston Chronicle reports

After a quick tongue-lashing, the Houston woman was able to make her flight.

“I’ve never dealt with a situation like that before,” she told the Chronicle. “I am so very fortunate it was not worse, though. They let me off with a warning, and I made my plane on time. I know that for others the situation could have been much more serious. I feel very fortunate. The TSA officers know I meant no harm; by the end of it I think they were kinda laughing too!”

Loaded Guns, Inert Grenades, Throw Star Among Top Confiscated Items at Airports in 2017

Sculpture made with an inert grenade, via TSA

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Festively wrapped narcotics, loaded guns, inert grenades and “Satan’s” pizza cutter are among the top 10 items confiscated at U.S. airport in 2017.

In a YouTube video, the TSA’s “Blogger Bob” Burns lists the most unusual forbidden items confiscated at airports.

Other eye-popping confiscated items include a menacing-looking “face-tenderizer,” a sculpture with inert grades, a pointed fidget spinner, a throwing star, a scythe, a bone knife and an umbrella that resembled a knife.

“Some people travel with weird stuff because they are collectors: it’s an heirloom, they have ADHD [attention deficit hyperactive disorder] and it’s their fidget, or they want to use the item as a training aid in a seminar,” Jeff Price, an aviation security expert and professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, told CNBC

Still, “a lot of people who don’t travel frequently just don’t understand that some of these items can be used as weapons,” he said.

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).”

Another Record Year for Number of Firearms Confiscated at U.S. Airports

Guns seized by the TSA.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

More firearms were confiscated at U.S. airports than any previous year, exceeding a record set last year.

Security officers discovered 3,888 firearms as of Christmas eve and may reach 4,000 by the end of the year, the Los Angeles Times reports

That’s compared to the previous record of 3,391 in 2016.

The number of confiscated firearms has risen every year since at least 2011, when about 1,200 guns were found.

The airports with the most firearms seized are Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

A majority of the seized guns were found on carry-on bags, while others were found in potted plants and stuffed animals.

Travelers caught trying to bring a gun onto a plane face a civil fine ranging from $330 to $13,000 and could be turned over to local police in the event that gun laws are violated.

Gun laws vary by state.

Hunter Prevented from Shipping Dead Cougar in Luggage on Airplane

McCarran International Airport, via Facebook.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A hunter’s plans to send a dead cougar home in his luggage on an airplane from Las Vegas hit a snag.

A TSA agent found the carcass just before 10 p.m. Monday at McCarran International Airport, the Associated Press reports

Agents held the man at the airport until they could confirm that a Utah State Fish and Game tag on the cougar was legitimate.

The man, whose identity has not been released, shipped the cougar home, but not on the airplane. TSA officials declined to say where the courage was headed.

Airport spokeswoman Melissa Nunnery said it’s not a crime to transport legally possessed carcasses, but she added that airlines have the authority to transport certain items.

TSA Miserably Fails to Detect Weapons at Airports, Alarming Congress

Airport crowdBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Undercover tests revealed that TSA failed to detect test weapons about 80% of the time, uncovering a slew of “vulnerabilities” at security checkpoints at multiple airports nationwide.

The results were shared with the House Committee on Homeland Security, which called the failures “disturbing,” ABC News reports

“This agency that you run is broken badly and it needs your attention,”Rep. Mike Rogers told TSA Administrator David Pekoske.

Inspectors “identified vulnerabilities with TSA’s screener performance, screening equipment, and associated procedures,” according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security.

The TSA is working on implementing eight recommendations to improve safety and effectiveness.

In a statement, the TSA said the agency “concurs with the DHS OIG findings and is committed to aggressively implementing the recommendations.”

“We take the OIG’s findings very seriously and are implementing measures that will improve screening effectiveness at checkpoints,” said Pekoske. “We are focused on staying ahead of a dynamic threat to aviation with continued investment in the workforce, enhanced procedures and new technologies,” he added.

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