Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Profiling Gone Wrong 9-20-2011

Changing Tone of TSA

FlyersRights Helps with EU Claim

What Kate's Saying


Profiling Gone Wrong

By now, many of you have seen the story of Shoshana Hebshi, a Jewish-Arab American, who was taken off a flight at Detroit's Metro Airport on 9/11. The link is her blog post about the incident, and most news outlets reported it as well, including MSNBC.

In short, a nervous 9/11 traveler on board reported her seatmates, not her, as suspiciousShoshana Hebshibecause of frequent lavatory trips during the flight. On landing, the aircraft was parked in a remote spot and armed authorities boarded, removing the two men in question and Shoshana, who had nothing to do with either of the men. She was cuffed, questioned, strip searched, and detained for four hours. Every passenger on the flight was questioned.

We're not going to address the obvious outrage of this incident. Instead, let's talk about its implications.

How could this have happened? If, as the TSA insists, their checkpoint procedures are effective, then why did an airport's security apparatus and the FBI react so forcefully? If they are not (and they're not), then it is time to change the procedures, now!

FlyersRights advocates finding the bombers, not the bombs. The time to do that is not at the end of a flight, but before the aircraft leaves the ground. Profiling that identifies potential bombers-profiling that has nothing to do with ethnicity-must be a part of the defense, not a random, knee-jerk reaction to unsubstantiated allegations.

The unfortunate victims on this flight were guilty of nothing more than Flying While Brown. Since 9/11, ignorance and misguided paranoia have combined to inspire senseless hate crimes all over America against people who wish only the same peace and safety all Americans desire. This was not a hate crime, but another manifestation of the unreasoned fear that has infected this country since that fateful day.

Shoshana's ordeal illustrates the fundamental failing of current air travel security measures-they rely on procedures that trample the Constitution. Unlimited power is routinely bestowed on people of limited capability. This incident was triggered, not by the TSA, but by local airport security personnel. An entire airplane load of people was needlessly detained, and three innocent people were subjected to unconscionable indignities and humiliation.

If any of us are swept up by these people with unlimited power, there is nothing we can do. We have no protection whatsoever from the same jail cell and strip search that Shoshana endured. Do you think "it can't happen to me?" According to the MSNBC article, there were 50 similar incidents across the country on 9/11/11.

We can only fix this problem by implementing real security and eliminating Security Theater. Read on.

Changing Tone of TSA

FlyersRights has been in the forefront of protest against the current security measures implemented by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Of course we want secure air travel, but we demand measures that are effective, safe, constitutional, and consistently applied. Current procedures miss the mark

6 Year Old Girl Groped By TSA
6 Year Old Girl Groped By TSA

But the tone at TSA is changing, if slowly and in halting steps. Last week, they announced that child screening procedures will change "soon." Another word to describe this would be "mostly." Children under 13 will not be routinely required to remove their shoes, and will not be subjected to intrusive pat downs that touch private areas of their bodies. However, DHS Secretary Napolitano said that some children will still need to remove their shoes to keep the process somewhat random. Pat downs will be replaced by marching the kids through metal detectors or body scanners several times "to capture a clear picture" and by using more trace detection tools.

No mention is made of "mostly" with regard to pat down replacement, and FlyersRights sincerely hopes that TSA will not randomly touch our children in areas we all teach them to never, ever let anyone touch them. Each intrusive child groping is a victory for the terrorists.

As Kate told CheapFlights.com, better late than never.

Beyond this change, we've already reported on changes such as the coming "Trusted Traveler" TSA Funny Logoprograms and a pilot program to find the bombers, not the bombs. In addition, in spite of EPIC attempts to stop further body scanner deployments, TSA is procuring another 300 of the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines. However, these machines use millimeter wave technology, not the much more dangerous X-Ray technology of Rapiscan's machines. TSA is also installing new software on the millimeter wave machines (but possibly not the X-Ray machines) that eliminates what they delicately call "passenger-specific images" (meaning electronic strip search) with a cartoon-like image.

FlyersRights supports TSA efforts to return some sanity to our air travel experience; however, these programs are either pilots or have extended roll-out schedules. We have a number of questions.

If a new procedure is a good idea, why not just do it? Why are extended roll-out schedules necessary?

A year ago, TSA insisted the X-Ray machines were far and away the best AIT technology, yet their new machines will be millimeter wave, despite evidence that the whole body scanner idea is ineffective. If X-Ray machines are not absolutely necessary, why not replace them with millimeter wave machines sporting the cartoon images?

The video above and Shoshana Hebshi's nightmare vividly illustrate the need for change, and FlyersRights will remain in the forefront of the fight for that change.

FlyersRights Helps with EU Claim

FlyersRights member Ruth S. and her husband had a bad air travel experience during their recent trip to Europe. For two consecutive days, their flight from Amsterdam to Delta was cancelled. Unfamiliar with European Union (EU) airline passenger protections, Ruth turned to our Hotline (877-359-6776)-always a good idea.

EU LogoOur Hotline staff explained that under EU rules, passengers are entitled to compensation for cancelled flights. See article 7 of the document. They also included pointers on how to file complaints with the EU, either on their own or through euclaim.com, which takes a percentage of the claim and handles the paperwork.

Ruth and her husband were awarded four payments from Delta. Unfortunately, the next step in this process is to extract the payments from the U.S. Airline, which may not be easy. U.S. airlines are frequently less than cooperative in this regard.

Our Hotline folks advised Ruth to get in touch with our very responsive contact at Delta, their Director of Customer Service. We'll follow through on this matter until Ruth and her husband's problem is resolved.

What Kate's Saying

This week we're introducing a new feature to our newsletter. What Kate's Saying will provide you a summary of Kate's weekly interviews and media appearances, just to keep you up to date on how she's representing us in the most public of forums.

CNN-Power to the Passengers



Will new consumer protections improve U.S. air travel?

USA Today

Mica 'willing to compromise' on FAA extension

Baruch College

Privacy comes first

For the very latest in airline passenger rights news, Facebook users can "like" theFlyersRights Fan Page. Also, please check in on our Flyers Rights Education Fund Cause Page. Twitter fans can also follow us on Twitter


Delta AirlinesWe need to correct a comment we made two weeks ago in our story on Craigslist airline vouchers. In the article, we noted that our members missed their connecting flight, then asked Delta "why their luggage was transported, unaccompanied, to Las Vegas," implying a problem with that.

FlyersRights member Duane W. asked for a pointer to the specific TSA rule prohibiting shipment of bags without their accompanying passengers. Good question, Duane. In short, your editor violated an old editors' maxim: "The one thing you know is absolutely, positively true...is not." Unable to find such a reference, we asked the TSA the question.

They told us, in a response written in class bureaucrat-ese, that they're not going to say what the exact rule is, but it doesn't matter, because all bags are screened anyway.

We have already apologized to Delta's Director of Customer Service, and regret the erroneous inference. Delta fully complied with all federal regulations.

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