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Thread: TSA - Should it exist, be reformed, or stay the same?

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    Default TSA - Should it exist, be reformed, or stay the same?



    Quote Originally Posted by datosprivados View Post
    the TSA really needs to go, there is no doubt about that in my mind
    While I doubt that anyone will defend the effectiveness (either gross or dollar for dollar), I think we can all agree that airport security is extremely important. How does getting rid of the the body that provides airline security make airline security better?

    Say you have a beater of a car that's just not getting you to work in the morning. As I see it, you've got three options.

    1. Sell it.
    2. Sell it, buy a new one.
    3. Fix it.


    Until crime and terrorism are done away with for good- hah- we're either going to need the TSA or a different body that fills the same niche.

    ---------- Post added at 23:00 ---------- Previous post was at 22:56 ----------



    Quote Originally Posted by thealchemist View Post
    The president may have had some power before (he got to sign the paper thingy), but now that Obama used the auto pen a while ago to sign a law, the power seems to be less very insignificant.

    But, could we replace the President with the auto pen as well they both seem to do the same thing?
    On one hand, the AutoPen strikes me as fulfilling a formality. I don't see a major difference between Obama signing a bill into law, and Obama authorizing the use of the autopen to sign a bill into law. In both cases, the President provides endorsement for a bill duly passed by Congress. That said, I'm a bit confused as to why Obama couldn't simply get a copy of the bill to sign and avoid the issue entirely. I understand he was overseas at the time, but do American embassies not have fax machines?

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    Quote Originally Posted by AEsahaettr View Post
    While I doubt that anyone will defend the effectiveness (either gross or dollar for dollar), I think we can all agree that airport security is extremely important. How does getting rid of the the body that provides airline security make airline security better?
    ...
    Until crime and terrorism are done away with for good- hah- we're either going to need the TSA or a different body that fills the same niche.
    Ok, let's make a couple points to clear up some misconceptions. First off, TSA is fighting an impossible battle. Incompetence aside, you cannot 100% prevent a repeat of 9/11. This is true with almost everything in security, but especially true in terrorism and guerrilla warfare. Terrorists, if they're as formidable as politicians make them out to be, will find other ways through. Then we'll just tighten it again, give up some more freedoms, and they'll effectively win (see next point), and again and again. If inductive reasoning is not enough for this point, then think from a criminal's point of view, who wants to inflict massive casualties - what are you going to do? You're going to either send a suicide bomber into the checkpoint to detonate right there (LOTS of people packed into a small area), or launch a missle/projectile at planes taking off or landing. Or if you really wanted to hijack a plane, you would take a job with the TSA (or pay a TSA agent lots of money); TSA agents are not well-vetted or well-paid, and can therefore very easily be corrupted.

    Recalling one of the higher-level psychology classes I took on personal security and safety, terrorism is politically motivated crime, not hate-crime, sadistic, or greedy in nature. It's done with the intention of destroying freedoms, or influencing policy-making by way of fear (hence the "terror" in the name). Given this, like a schoolyard bully, giving them lots of attention and making new laws because of a single (or couple) incident, is exactly what they want. Performing a statistical risk assessment (I don't have the numbers handy), you will find that terrorism is a very unlikely way to die; you're much more likely to get hit by lightning, or even die in some freak accident, even before TSA existed.

    Terrorism has always existed, and other than talking heads in the mainstream media and fear-mongering politicians, there isn't any convincing evidence that it's any more prevalent today than 20 years ago. One thing I've learned in my years in student governments lobbying public school policies at a board and state level is that government agencies (all of them) need to justify their annual budgets to get more money, or else they will lose what they have. It's kind of a silly process, which is not known for integrity in reporting, and would take a while to explain in detail. This need gives agencies like TSA and DHS a strong incentive to have people afraid of Big Bad Terrorists, lest they be deemed unimportant or ineffective. In the case of terrorism, crime, and the like, there is a very effective sales tactic using the safety appeal from Maslow's heirarchy of needs, which with lots of repetition and lobbying (combined with a loss-prevention oriented framing effect) has led to TONS of overspending on the military, anti-terrorism, security, and bad policies. It also led to a sort of reckless attitude that we can't afford bureaucratic oversight of these agencies, and a massive veil of secrecy, which is a recipe for disaster and literally asking for abuse of power. This is likely the bureaucracy Ron Paul speaks about, and probably his motives for severing the agencies, even if he doesn't express (or understand) it as well as I just did.

    Airport security improved more or less on its own after 9/11, primarily by more attentive passengers and reinforced cockpit doors. If you're a lone terrorist, as has happened a couple times over the past decade (which the TSA failed to stop), you're likely to get mauled by the passenger as soon as you start something, much quicker than you could break down the door. And breaking down the door would require nothing short of full cooperation from everyone on the plane. With these improvements, our need to increase security is considerably lessened, and that money can be much more useful elseware. Same with the wars, which I seriously question the motives for, and that just about solves our budget problem. Of course, that's never going to happen because now there is too much money behind the military-industrial mess we've gotten ourselves into (especially now with Certoff and his company's body scanners), and that safety appeal I described above makes for easy justification of reckless domestic/foreign defense spending. Plus, as Bruce Schneier once put it, politicians fear being the one who announces a cut in defense right before something bad happens, however unlikely, so they're never going to cut anything sizeable they've previously committed over the years, and our budget isn't looking good.

    In conclusion, the TSA is a bureaucratic mess, working for a lost cause which we really don't need anymore (and probably never did).

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    Quote Originally Posted by AEsahaettr View Post
    While I doubt that anyone will defend the effectiveness (either gross or dollar for dollar), I think we can all agree that airport security is extremely important. How does getting rid of the the body that provides airline security make airline security better?

    Say you have a beater of a car that's just not getting you to work in the morning. As I see it, you've got three options.

    1. Sell it.
    2. Sell it, buy a new one.
    3. Fix it.


    Until crime and terrorism are done away with for good- hah- we're either going to need the TSA or a different body that fills the same niche.
    Well to fix TSA would cost enough that it would be impossible to actually get it fixed (for one thing, the party that "cares about security" won't care that much if it costs money). Essentially, I firmly believe that using profiling is the best way to handle airport security. That doesn't mean the sort of profiling proposed before of, "A muslim looking person? We need to screen them! White guy? He's okay!" The profiling of watching body language, eyes, etc. and reactions to simple questions. If I recall correctly some airports in Europe while have screeners asking things like, "Where are you going? Is it for business or pleasure?" Those sorts of things (and considering the amount of attacks on planes over there it works as well as our overly invasive reactive security).

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    I don't feel safer with government-sanctioned sexual molestation of children and the elderly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by xbabyx View Post
    No, his being unelectable led to his being unelectable.
    He's obviously electable for congress. Quite popular, in fact - to be exact, 51% in a 3-way when first elected in 1996, up to 68% by 2002, and then unopposed after that. Therefore, he is not "unelectable".

    Quote Originally Posted by xbabyx View Post
    Ron Paul's like that crazy uncle at Thanksgiving dinner.
    That should disqualify pretty much all of the republican candidates. Ron Paul is crazy, and I never said he wasn't, but he's consistent and doesn't pick favorites. I have no doubt he will do damage to the country, but he will (ideally) put a dent in the blatant corruption, which is the first thing we need to address; nothing can get reformed as long as the private interests who stand to gain from a broken system control the government. I also think much of the damage he will do is something other republican candidates will also do if elected.

    Quote Originally Posted by xbabyx View Post
    Cut all social welfare programs? Wait, I'm not so sure about that...
    Isn't that one of the main platform points of his party? I don't like it any more than you, believe me, and I'm not endorsing Ron Paul (or any particular candidate for that matter), but what else did you expect from a republican? Heck, this single point is probably one of the main reasons they keep him in the republican party. The republican party does not like poor people, and certainly doesn't support any degree of social safety nets (short of social Darwinism) to address poverty.

    Quote Originally Posted by xbabyx View Post
    The civil rights acts were wrong? No, I disagree.
    Crazy, but from what I've gathered recently it's not entirely deviant from the party. Wasn't there that Herman Cain guy who wanted the Mexican bug-zapper-fence along the border? And another (forget the name) who flat-out said we should quit providing resources to the poor people so they die off and don't need anything anymore?

    Quote Originally Posted by xbabyx View Post
    Gold standard? YOU'RE CRAZY AND HAVE NO GRASP OF REALITY OR MODERN ECONOMICS!! Why did we invite you anyway?
    I'm going to just skim this one, partly because it will take pages, and partly because I'm not especially familiar with economics. Ron Paul has a point about the corruption surrounding the federal reserve. Printing money and distributing it amongst bankers doesn't do anything to help the economy; it's what causes inflation. The reason for this is that there is a constant amount of gold, and the total money in the economy represents that gold in proportion. Printing money decreases the value of the dollar by altering the gold-to-dollar ratio. Essentially, what the federal reserve is doing decreases the value of the dollar for everyone, but that extra money goes right to the wealthy well-connected. You could argue it's stealing from the poor to pay the rich, and worse yet we've gotten ourselves to a point where we're doing this just to make payments on the national debt that we're never going to completely pay off (if I understand correctly). Ron Paul, like most republicans who see some fault in a government agency, wants to cut it entirely. His "gold standard" is an attempt to prevent exactly this kind of thing from happening again. Whether that's the right choice remains to be seen, but it definitely needs to be re-hauled. The dollar was created, at least in part, so people didn't have to carry gold everywhere, and the federal reserve promised that each dollar would represent a fixed amount of gold, but is no longer keeping that promise as they print money. There is a reason for them to print money (e.g. emergency response to a bank run, one of the instabilities of the "modern" economic system), but they have yet to successfully save us from an economic disaster. There are, of course, a lot of wealthy people whose livelihood depends on this broken system, and Paul's intention of cutting (or even reforming) the federal reserve threatens the status quo, thus there are a lot of private interests out there who do not want him elected, and for that reason alone he probably won't be.

    There is also the military-industrial complex, and a bunch of other companies that depend on government favoritism of one form or another, who stand to lose if a libertarian like Ron Paul gets elected; given the bias of many American TV networks, his lack of coverage should come as no surprise, and that's why he is "unelectable" while other just-as-crazy candidates are winning. Also, Mitt Romney has a lot more money than Ron Paul.



    Quote Originally Posted by Coyote_Howl View Post
    I firmly believe that using profiling is the best way to handle airport security. That doesn't mean the sort of profiling proposed before of, "A muslim looking person? We need to screen them! White guy? He's okay!" The profiling of watching body language, eyes, etc. and reactions to simple questions.
    No.

    First off, as human beings, we have certain instincts about people who "look different" and therefore "must be bad". This is part of what feeds something social psychologists often refer to as aversive racism. So for example you hear a lot about "Muslim terrorists" in the news, then see a Muslim at an airport. You may not even notice it, but your brain did, and now you're in paranoia-mode. Same with seeing black people get arrested, and basically anything else that effectively creates a schema for some ethnicity in your mind. It's hard enough to keep the underpaid TSA staff from profiling minorities, but asking them to search for people who look funny is just asking for the kind of profiling we don't want.

    Putting aside the feasability of getting it right (we're at the undesirable racial/religious profiling scenario partly because we tried to do exactly what you suggested), treating people like criminals before they do anything is unconstitutional and wrong, not to mention ineffective. A trained terrorist will act a lot more calmly and less nervous than an innocent passenger -- even a half-competent pickpocket will act like nothing is wrong. They can't be successful otherwise. If they go through the kind of research it takes to bring sophisticated weapons through a metal detector, they will most certainly train their bombers to not act nervous before sending them in (I won't go into details of how that training works here). When you start saying "that guy looks funny; he must be a terrorist" you're stepping on a slippery slope toward a world of irrational paranoia, which I can't (don't want to) even imagine. There is (or at least was, at some point) an attitude of "innocent until proven guilty" in the justice system for a reason.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coyote_Howl View Post
    That doesn't mean the sort of profiling proposed before of, "A muslim looking person? We need to screen them! White guy? He's okay!" The profiling of watching body language, eyes, etc. and reactions to simple questions.
    I used to know a guy who was a cop in Arizona and worked with border patrol. He told me once that if a guy he pulled over acted cool, he almost never gave out anything more than a ticket or warning for whatever he pulled him over for. He only escalated for people who only gave one-word answers, had a death grip on the wheel, or had hands shaking so badly when they turned over their license that they had trouble handing it to him. Those times, it would almost always be drugs or an outstanding warrant.

    I agree the TSA isn't competent. But we have a need for airline security. You won't make anything better by simply eliminating the TSA. You make it better by having a competent system. However, this wasn't the proposal I was responding to. The proposal I responded to was to simply do away with airport security.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bps View Post
    Putting aside the feasability of getting it right (we're at the undesirable racial/religious profiling scenario partly because we tried to do exactly what you suggested), treating people like criminals before they do anything is unconstitutional and wrong, not to mention ineffective. A trained terrorist will act a lot more calmly and less nervous than an innocent passenger -- even a half-competent pickpocket will act like nothing is wrong. They can't be successful otherwise. If they go through the kind of research it takes to bring sophisticated weapons through a metal detector, they will most certainly train their bombers to not act nervous before sending them in (I won't go into details of how that training works here). When you start saying "that guy looks funny; he must be a terrorist" you're stepping on a slippery slope toward a world of irrational paranoia, which I can't (don't want to) even imagine. There is (or at least was, at some point) an attitude of "innocent until proven guilty" in the justice system for a reason.
    You realize that what proposed (and AEsahaettr give an example just below) is what cops and detectives have done for years, and nervous isn't the only sign. There are tons of body language signs that can indicate when someone is lying/not being truthful and reading a persons body language isn't saying they are guilty before innocent, shit in a normal conversation we do it all the time! But, there is a reason they always say to not lie to a detective/police, a major reason being they are trained to spot the signs of lying (by the way if anyone has played L.A. Noire, that does actually use real signs for lying/truth, even though I didn't know some of them but still just fyi).

    It isn't even "looking funny," in fact I see even saying that as an intentional way to misinterpret the idea to begin with. There is a difference between body language and looking funny, one which should be painfully obvious to most people who are living (Being again, we use body language all the time, 99% of the time not even noticing it). Further saying it is irrational paranoia is hilarious, I fail to see how simply watching someones reactions to simple questions is paranoia. If it is, we mine as well not have metal detectors at all, as those must be paranoia to the 20th degree.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coyote_Howl View Post
    You realize that what proposed (and AEsahaettr give an example just below) is what cops and detectives have done for years, and nervous isn't the only sign. There are tons of body language signs that can indicate when someone is lying/not being truthful and reading a persons body language isn't saying they are guilty before innocent, shit in a normal conversation we do it all the time! But, there is a reason they always say to not lie to a detective/police, a major reason being they are trained to spot the signs of lying (by the way if anyone has played L.A. Noire, that does actually use real signs for lying/truth, even though I didn't know some of them but still just fyi).
    Profiling potential suspects essentially boils down to looking for anomalous body language or unusual characteristics. This is what I meant by "look funny": you're looking for something out of the ordinary. What you described is specific to detecting lies, known as interrogation in law enforcement (more on that later). It's used in a relatively captive or controlled conversation, either in holding, prior to arrest, or in a drawn out conversation with someone a cop has evidence against and intends to arrest, in an attempt to collect evidence or confessions.

    When detecting lies, an officer might look for awkwardness when approaching a subject, short punctuated responses to questions, sweat, stuttering/shaking, unusual mood/attitude. Here are some basic examples you may have been looking for. This can be used professionally to make a personal judgment call in collecting evidence, or for fun and games such as in a television program. It rests on the assumption that a liar is uncomfortable with lying and especially afraid of getting caught, thus uncomfortable (nervous) when approaching the subject. Pathological or trained liars will exhibit fewer if any of these signs, because they are more comfortable lying. It's not magic or mind-reading.

    If we're speaking practically, then we're not sitting down with and questioning every single passenger at an airport, and so we're instead looking for anomalous behavior (body language, social cues, unusual behavior/emotions, etc). In the case of a suicide bomber or the like, a terrorist will likely be trained to "fit in" and to not feel uncomfortable when speaking with authorities. Furthermore, once someone has progressed to this point in the staircase to terrorism, they will inhibit their mechanisms of empathy/guilt, feel 100% justified in their actions, and be of the proper "I'm not doing anything wrong" mindset to not exhibit these warning signs even if asked about things that they plan on doing. Plus, the terrorist is dead either way, and if caught will see themself as a martyr and hero, bringing honor to the family.

    I haven't heard the "don't lie to cops" phrase you cited, but I have heard don't talk to cops from a number of credible sources, including a handful of lawyers. This applies even if you're innocent, especially if you're innocent, as to the cops and prosecutor your innocence is irrelevant; their job is to ensure you are guilty no matter what (the prosecutor is a lawyer, and is rated on the ratio of convictions; it's the defense's job to balance that out). False "confessions" or "lies" in the court room by people who do not understand this aspect of the justice system before meeting with a lawyer are one of the main reasons innocent people end up in prison.

    Quote Originally Posted by Coyote_Howl View Post
    Further saying it is irrational paranoia is hilarious, I fail to see how simply watching someones reactions to simple questions is paranoia.
    Speaking about profiling people's behavior as they enter airports, and some other "counter-terrorism" methods, it's irrational because it's a LOT of money and effort to prevent something very unlikely to happen. Even pre-9/11 "security", terrorist attacks were rare. You're much more likely to die in a freak accident, or to put it in the same context, because of a sleep-deprived pilot or defective engine. They're still rare today. A well-planned attack is also nearly impossible to stop. So trying to prevent one is like trying to prevent a freak accident. It's paranoia because it means creating an atmosphere and attitude of distrust and belief that everyone should be treated as a potential criminal.

    Speaking specifically about watching body language of someone you are interrogating, it's not irrational paranoia, but it's also not applicable to this conversation because you can't stop every passenger to play 20 Questions or hook them up to a polygraph before they're allowed to pass the checkpoint... Furthermore, if you say you're only going to do it to some people, then you have to have a criteria to define those people, thus the racial profiling sees some use, civil rights disappear in lieu of paranoid discrimination, and the terrorists just recruit someone who doesn't fit the stereotype.

    Quote Originally Posted by Coyote_Howl View Post
    If it is, we mine as well not have metal detectors at all, as those must be paranoia to the 20th degree.
    Metal detectors (not talking about X-rays, facial recognition/tracking, automated profiling, or omnipresent surveillance) are a relatively cheap, unobtrusive, and efficient way to preemptively detect and certain types of crime in places where that is extremely important. It probably won't stop a dedicated terrorist, but it's likely to stop some copycat or crazy person from carrying a gun onto an airline and taking a flight attendant hostage or something, which is a lot worse when you're 10,000+ feet into the air. It's also a good idea for presidential rallies, and places in Washington DC, for obvious reasons. Unlike X-ray scanners, profiling, citizen blacklists, and a lot of other methods used today, this does not come at a very significant (in comparison) cost to citizens or the government, but is able to deliver real results. Therefore it is not irrational. It's also a pretty reasonable request that nobody carry a pistol into an airplane, so it's not paranoid.



    Quote Originally Posted by Coyote_Howl View Post
    It isn't even "looking funny," in fact I see even saying that as an intentional way to misinterpret the idea to begin with.
    ...
    Further saying it is irrational paranoia is hilarious, I fail to see how simply watching someones reactions to simple questions is paranoia. If it is, we mine as well not have metal detectors at all, as those must be paranoia to the 20th degree.
    I do take a little bit of offense to this. Are you accusing me of intentionally, maliciously distorting truth for a political agenda? I used those words (and explained them above in this post) because my post was already quite long, and I didn't feel like I needed to make it even longer by specifically explaining every aspect of analyzing criminal behavior. In every investigative field security field I know of, foul play is found by searching for something anomalous, meaning it sticks out from the norm: a statistically deviant or unusual outlier. I shortened that to "looks funny" for the sake of simplicity and conciseness, not malicious distortion. I also feel it's bad form to make fun of ideas you disagree with, even if you do find their views entertaining. Citing an example you feel poses a contradiction in someone's logic (proof by contradiction, or reductio ad absurdum in an appropriate form) is ok, and I addressed that instance above, but unless I'm misinterpreting something, yo seemed to present that in a rather negative tone (in the underlined parts).

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    You can easily stop almost every passenger to ask pretty simple, short questions. It doesn't have to be anything fancy (Israel uses the profiling system, though they're only airport has less traffic then the major ones here in the states, they pretty much ask most of the questions at check-in). I'm not talking about a full Israeli system though, I don't really like it even if it works for them. For one, they go by the "Muslim=likely terrorist" model on top of the question and body language based version. Plus their version of enhanced screening sounds like a nightmare more then anything.

    Still, you may have to hire more people to be able to do it, but what is wrong with that? It'd work as well or better then the current crap system (which majority of is nothing more then trying to make it harder, not actually stopping attacks (see: 3.4oz liquid rule aka 3.4oz OR 60 oz). I have my doubts it would take much longer to simply ask someone things like, "What was the purpose of your visit, did you pack your own bags, why are you going to wherever, etc." Plus, you'd really have to convince me terrorists are somewhat smart, considering there are some pretty easy to find holes in the current security that no-one has tried to take advantage of.

    Also, you can talk to cops, be it an interview or a interrogation. If you are going to lie though (or are guilty) its better to say nothing at all though.

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    I flew to see my girlfriend recently.

    I opted-out of the "see-your-dick" machine and instead went for the "feel-your-dick" pat-down by the high-school dropout dressed in the blue shirt with the Captain Crunch "badge."

    I will do this each and every time I travel, and make it as intolerable for the "agent" as I can--this time, I told him he was a "cheap date," as he touched my cock and everything!--and, as I do this, I will continue to watch fellow passengers' faces. The day that their faces fail to register surprise and fear--"is this MY country? The one that I am told provides freedom?"--is the day that I book passage out of here and do not return.

    What we have now is security theater. What places like Israel and Mexico City have are effective--Army soldiers in full fatigues brandishing fully-automatic carbines. No, "let me touch your penis, sir" there, as there is no need. If there's something wrong, you are quietly pulled aside. Mistakes happen--both false positives and misses--but both areas seem to be doing what they are doing for a reason, unlike this country.

    To bring this back to where we were: "tells" such as psychomotor tics and microexpressions are valid options to determine distress or deceit. Actors can greatly reduce most, but not all, of these. It is possible to train people to look for, and leverage, these unconscious movements (see Paul Eckman's training of the US Secret Service agency).

    It is, however, NOT something that you can train an ill-educated chimp with a plastic badge and a sense of entitlement.



    Quote Originally Posted by Coyote_Howl View Post
    You can easily stop almost every passenger to ask pretty simple, short questions. It doesn't have to be anything fancy (Israel uses the profiling system, though they're only airport has less traffic then the major ones here in the states, they pretty much ask most of the questions at check-in). I'm not talking about a full Israeli system though, I don't really like it even if it works for them. For one, they go by the "Muslim=likely terrorist" model on top of the question and body language based version. Plus their version of enhanced screening sounds like a nightmare more then anything.

    Still, you may have to hire more people to be able to do it, but what is wrong with that? It'd work as well or better then the current crap system (which majority of is nothing more then trying to make it harder, not actually stopping attacks (see: 3.4oz liquid rule aka 3.4oz OR 60 oz). I have my doubts it would take much longer to simply ask someone things like, "What was the purpose of your visit, did you pack your own bags, why are you going to wherever, etc." Plus, you'd really have to convince me terrorists are somewhat smart, considering there are some pretty easy to find holes in the current security that no-one has tried to take advantage of.

    Also, you can talk to cops, be it an interview or a interrogation. If you are going to lie though (or are guilty) its better to say nothing at all though.

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