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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Expanding Government Powers - A growing TSA?

A reader sent me this link on a possible expansion of powers for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The article is from a website called which is the first time I have seen this site.

Other relevant news concerning TSA is that in the wake of the LAX International Airport shooting is there are proposals to arm TSA agents. This is very problematic as just the training, initial and recurrent, to make these newly armed travel security guards safe with firearms - let alone competent - would be very costly. The Government already has armed agents at  airports from the Customs and Border Protection agency who have authorities at air ports.

Another potential change to the TSA is that there is talk to legislation to expand the TSA's authority to other transportation modes such as bus depots, train stations and sea ports.

I also called a former Homeland Security (DHS) who served in mid-upper management of a law enforcement agency within DHS and he said that he would be very concerned with arming TSA agents and expanding their powers.  He also reminded me that President Obama did promise to create a national law enforcement agency as powerful as the Army.  If TSA agents become armed, TSA would be the largest armed law enforcement agency in the country with 40,000 + personnel.  Executive orders could grant them additional enforcement and regulatory powers.  Scary to say the least.     

I don't know what the intent is.   Good idea or not, its hard to accept an additional expansion of governmental powers, especially if it limits or controls citizens' rights to travel.

TSA will now “pre-screen” your taxes, car registration, passport, employment history, and more

Travelers are now being subjected to even more invasive screening procedures by the infamous Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Before “allowing” people to travel, the TSA is performing unwarranted checks of a wide variety of personal documents, going further than ever before into the lives of innocent passengers. As expected, Americans will roll over for the new intrusions and accept that they are necessary to protect the Homeland.

The new pre-screening procedure is more exhaustive than a federal background check. The TSA will now be dramatically expanding their reach into the lives of every passenger, and scouring all of the following documents, according to the New York Times:

  • private employment information
  • vehicle registrations
  • travel history
  • property ownership records
  • physical characteristics
  • tax identification numbers
  • past travel itineraries
  • law enforcement information
  • “intelligence” information
  • passport numbers
  • frequent flier information
  • other “identifiers” linked to DHS databases

“I think the best way to look at it is as a pre-crime assessment every time you fly,” said Edward Hasbrouck to the New York Times. Hasbrouck is a consultant to the Identity Project, one of the groups that oppose the prescreening initiatives. “The default will be the highest, most intrusive level of search, and anything less will be conditioned on providing some additional information in some fashion.”

What gives the TSA this authority? The constitution does not even provide for the TSA’s existence. In fact, the constitution ensures that the federal government will not perform these kinds of searches without probable cause or a warrant. Yet all day, every day, the agency devotes itself to performing warrantless searches of travelers. Its existence is a travesty, and its mission-creep is alarming (and predictable).

And what will the TSA do with this information? Nobody is explaining what criteria the agency will be looking for to indicate whether a passenger will be denied the right to travel. How can job history and vehicle registration possibly be relevant to flight safety? What happens if you have criminal convictions on your record? More groping?

Is owing taxes going to prevent people from flying? Actually, the NYT reports that the TSA will be reporting their findings to “a debt collection agency for the purpose of debt collection.”

For fun, compare the government’s disparate efforts in invading travelers’ privacy versus ensuring fair and proper voter registration.

The process is meant to be onerous. The only alternative that travelers are left with is to join the TSA’s “PreCheck” program and become a “trusted traveler.” This program allows passengers to willingly submit their biometric fingerprint scans into a FBI database, submit to a criminal background check, and pay the TSA a fee of $85.00 for a five-year PreCheck membership. RT reports that the TSA may net $255 Million hustling travelers in 2013. This option is still highly invasive, and actually enriches the very entity that is violating our liberties, so it hardly seems like a viable alternative.

Ask yourself: Is this how free people travel? Every trip is now turned into a personal investigation by the federal government. This might be reasonable research to do on inmates transferring between maximum security prisons, but not for people trying to travel between American cities.

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