Wednesday, January 5, 2011

TSA At It Again

I am getting really tired of these guys at TSA. It seems they have a hard time thinking and chewing bubble gum at the same time. They stop and pat down grandma and the Ambassador from India to keep us safe from a hijacking. They pat down the flight crew but they allow maintenance crews access to the aircraft without going through security. Now they are proving they can be genuine asshole bureaucrats. A pilot flying out of San Francisco saw the hole in security and brought it up several times. When that did no good he simply took his smartphone and video taped the flight staff being patted down while the maintenance crew bypassed the whole process. He posted those videos on You Tube to get the word out. TSA did not like being criticized and the following is the story of what happened:

An airline pilot is being disciplined by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for posting video on YouTube pointing out what he believes are serious flaws in airport security. The pilot, who lives outside Sacramento, has worked for the airline for more than a decade and was deputized by the TSA to carry a gun in the cockpit. He is also a helicopter test pilot in the Army Reserve and flew missions for the United Nations in Macedonia.

Three days after he posted a series of six video clips recorded with a cell phone camera at San Francisco International Airport, four federal air marshals and two sheriff's deputies arrived at his house to confiscate his federally-issued firearm. The pilot recorded that event as well. At the same time as the federal marshals took the pilot's gun, a deputy sheriff asked him to surrender his state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon.

A follow-up letter from the sheriff's department said the CCW permit would be reevaluated following the outcome of the federal investigation.

The YouTube videos, posted Nov. 28, show what the pilot calls the irony of flight crews being forced to go through TSA screening while ground crew who service the aircraft are able to access secure areas simply by swiping a card.

"As you can see, airport security is kind of a farce. It's only smoke and mirrors so you people believe there is actually something going on here," the pilot narrates.

Video shot in the cockpit shows a medieval-looking rescue ax available on the flight deck after the pilots have gone through the metal detectors. "This looks a little more formidable than a box cutter, doesn't it?" the pilot asks rhetorically.

A letter from the TSA dated Dec. 6 informed the pilot that "an administrative review into your deputation status as a Federal Flight Deck Officer has been initiated."

According to the letter, the review was directly related to the discovery by TSA staff of the YouTube videos. "The content and subject of these videos may have violated regulations concerning disclosure of sensitive security information," the letter said.

The pilot's attorney, Don Werno of Santa Ana, said he believed the federal government sent six people to the house to send a message. "And the message was you've angered us by telling the truth and by showing America that there are major security problems despite the fact that we've spent billions of dollars allegedly to improve airline safety," Werno said.
The pilot said he is not in trouble with his airline, but a supervisor asked him to remove public access to the YouTube videos. He does, however, face potential civil penalties from the TSA. He said he would likely go public when it becomes clear what the government plans to do with him.

UPDATE: The pilot has now resigned from the airline saying that the TSA investigation was interfering with his duties and his life. He and his attorney are now considering his next best options.


Special Report Section

Wars in 2011
(part 3 of a 7 part report)

Over the next 12 months, watch for Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to take his brand of 21st-century socialism to the extremes. Having lost his majority in Parliament in September, Chávez has since been working hard to ensure that the new, opposition legislature will be irrelevant by the time it is sworn in in January. The Venezuelan president has consolidated control over the military and police, seized more private companies, and won temporary "decree powers" from the outgoing, pro-government National Assembly.

Chávez's power grab comes as the country's economic, social, and security problems are mounting. Violence has spiked dramatically in urban areas; there were some 19,000 homicides in 2009 out of a population of 28 million. In recent years, Venezuela has become a major drug-trafficking corridor, home to foreign and domestic cartels alike. State security forces have also been accused of participating in criminal activity. Meanwhile, Chávez has escalated -- rather than soothed -- the situation with fiery, partisan rhetoric that seems to egg on a violent suppression of the opposition. That message has an audience; government-allied street gangs in Caracas stand ready to defend his revolution with Kalashnikovs.


The fate of Sudan in 2011 will be set early, on January 9, when a referendum on southern self-determination is scheduled to take place, and which will likely result in independence for the south. Two decades of war came to an end in Sudan in 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). But as the agreement enters its last stages, however, that delicate peace will be tested. While securing the referendum has been an international priority, the long-term stability of the region relies on the ability of north and south Sudan to forge a positive post-CPA relationship.

If matters go well, the January referendum will take place smoothly, with its results respected by the government in Khartoum. This would provide the perfect platform for negotiations on post-referendum arrangements to be successfully concluded. But should the vote go poorly, we might witness the reignition of conflict between north and south and an escalation of violence in Darfur, all of which could potentially draw in regional states. At this point, nothing is certain.

Finally, there's the tricky matter of creating a new, independent Southern Sudan, which many are already dubbing a pre-failed state. The border remains undecided -- no small matter since the contested middle ground happens to sit on a large oil field. Meanwhile in Juba, the nascent capital, institutions and services would urgently need to be built from scratch.

Live Long and Prosper...

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