Finally, other media outlets have followed FlyersRights' lead and raised the alarm on TSA's new PreCheck data-mining program.
Stick em up. A wall poster at Eugene Airport in Oregon directs passengers at the TSA screening area to raise up their arms, form an O with their hands and stay that way for 3 seconds. #GoodSheep.
As we wrote about in January, the new, juiced up PreCheck program which applicants pay $85 for, gave private companies access to citizens' social media posts, banking, mail order, supermarket, gas, electricity and telephone data, press reports, location info and more while doing background and fingerprint checks.
It was sold as a program that'll allow people the kind of freedom in an airport that they used to have - the freedom from being hassled, groped and degraded for the privilege of traveling.
The question becomes, how many of our rights are we supposed to give up for the illusion of safety?
In response to the backlash from FlyersRights and other advocates, the TSA last month abruptly withdrew requests for proposals. Among those concerned was Thomas P. Bossert, a security consultant and a former Homeland Security aide to President George W. Bush, who said it represented a "massive expansion and outsourcing of the government's data-mining."
The TSA said it's now revising its request for proposals because of "some difficulties" with the language. The agency intends to proceed with its plan to hire private companies to get more travelers into PreCheck, which now has about 950,000 members.
Where Have All The Air Marshals Gone?
TSA's budget cuts for 2015 mean resources for its Air Marshal program is on the decline and large numbers of U.S. Air Marshals are fleeing the skies, reports the National Review.
Robert MacLean, a former air marshal, TSA whistleblower and U.S. Supreme Court victor spoke with FlyersRights on the subject.
MacLean told FlyersRights that the Federal Air Marshal Program (FAM) should never have become an agency in the first place, but remained a detail - ideally made up of federal and local police working as FAM reservists who would be deployed when there is a specific threat.
FR: So, the FAM program is a waste of resources and doesn't provide needed security?
RM: "For the most part. Why isn't every aircraft outfitted with secondary barriers, tasers and restraint systems to control unruly passengers, and install a remote-locked modified shotgun into every flight deck? A short, pistol-gripped, scatter-pellet, pump-action shotgun is EVERY flight deck is much more effective and less hazardous than the .40 cal. handguns too few pilots carry because they have to pay to fly and lodge for the one week of mandatory TSA training. A firearms instructor can teach you how to pump, point, and shoot a scatter-gun in one hour.
Congress needs to pass a law to indemnify hero passengers. Passengers right now are hesitant to act believing there's an air marshal team on board. Google: 'unruly passenger air marshal arrest', why isn't anyone alarmed that an unruly passenger may be a terrorist ruse to ambush an air marshal overly anxious to make his/her first arrest ever after hundreds of missions without incident?"
FR: Are air marshals leaving because they feel the agency is not protecting them as the National Review says, or are they being pushed out to save costs?
RM: "I believe they want to flush out the street-experienced law enforcement officers and hire a bunch of very young yes-men who they can pay significantly less. After three years of being seated and maxed-out in their career field, air marshals can become disgruntled and hard to contain their frustration. An air marshal should have at least five years of street or military experience before planted into a chair only to wait for something that may never happen."
FR: $820 million is spent annually on the Federal Air Marshal program. So you're saying it's better to outfit aircraft with other barriers, i.e. tasers and firearms in the flight deck with NO air marshal onboard?
RM: "Do you really think terrorists are planning to have a gun fight as their attack? The principal threat are hidden bombs. For the "Hollywood doomsday scenario" of a airborne gun-battle: the pilots should have the ability to depressurize the cabin and put to sleep a hyperventilating, tachycardia killer with a gun."
FR: Then why was the FAM program ever invented, if it is unnecessary to thwart an attack?
RM: "It made many retired Secret Service agents very financially comfortable able to collect collect second federal check -- a nice reward for protecting past presidents. The program also made a lot of contractors wealthy, who in turn would hire retired Secret Service-to-TSA executives: "the revolving door."
FR: Lastly, what do you think of TSA's new data-mining program behind PreCheck?
RM: "It's very encouraging. You may not like what I say, but I believe passengers must surrender most of their 4th Amendment rights to fly in a missile of mass destruction. I'm terribly paranoid of a bomb being smuggled or 'muled' into a jet. I strongly believe that if you need that extra privacy, then you should not fly in a crowded tube, 40,000 feet up, at 500 miles per hour.
I do believe in some form of FAM program, but done as a reserve one open to local police. Let's say there's a Tokyo/Seattle threat, you can quickly deploy 100 Seattle area police and sheriff's deputies to fly that route."
Recently I spent many hours with congressional staffers to address the misappropriation of tax money that the public thinks it's protecting inflight security -- I opened up many eyes very wide."
Which Flight Will Get You There Fastest?A Better Way To Find The Best Flights And Avoid The Worst Airports
Cool interactive websites tell you which airlines perform the best on which routes and which airports you should avoid:
We are commited to solutions for promoting airline passenger policies that forward first and foremost the safety of all passengers while not imposing unrealistic economic burdens that adversely affect airline profitability or create exhorbitant ticket price increases.
All American air carriers shall abide by the following standards to ensure the safety, security and comfort of their passengers:
Establish procedures to respond to all passenger complaints within 24 hours and with appropriate resolution within 2 weeks.
Notify passengers within ten minutes of a delay of known diversions, delays and cancellations via airport overhead announcement, on aircraft announcement, and posting on airport television monitors.
Establish procedures for returning passengers to terminal gate when delays occur so that no plane sits on the tarmac for longer than three hours without connecting to a gate.
Provide for the essential needs of passengers during air- or ground-based delays of longer than 3 hours, including food, water, sanitary facilities, and access to medical attention.
Provide for the needs of disabled, elderly and special needs passengers by establishing procedures for assisting with the moving and retrieving of baggage, and the moving of passengers from one area of airport to another at all times by airline personnel.
Publish and update monthly on the company’s public web site a list of chronically delayed flights, meaning those flight delayed thirty minutes or more, at least forty percent of the time, during a single month.
Compensate “bumped” passengers or passengers delayed due to flight cancellations or postponements of over 12 hours by refund of 150% of ticket price.
The formal implementation of a Passenger Review Committee, made up of non-airline executives and employees but rather passengers and consumers – that would have the formal ability to review and investigate complaints.
Make lowest fare information, schedules and itineraries, cancellation policies and frequent flyer program requirements available in an easily accessed location and updated in real-time.
Ensure that baggage is handled without delay or injury; if baggage is lost or misplaced, the airline shall notify customer of baggage status within 12 hours and provide compensation equal to current market value of baggage and its contents.
Require that these rights apply equally to all airline code-share partners including international partners.