Mar 27 2010

Second TSA nominee withdraws

Robert A. Harding, President Obama’s second nominee to head the TSA, has become the second such nominee to withdraw himself from consideration in response to questions about the ethics of his previous activities.

Earlier, Erroll Southers withdrew himself as nominee for TSA Administrator after it became public that he had abused his connections and access to police databases to try to dig up dirt on his ex-wife’s new lover.

After he retired from the U.S. Army as a Major General, Harding founded a company that provided services under contract to the his former buddies in the military, DHS, and TSA, in the typical revolving-door fashion of the military-industrial complex.

There are conflicting reports in separate articles in the Washington Post today about Harding’s withdrawal.

One story suggests that it was related to his successful claim to qualify for preferential treatment in applying for military and government contracts as a “”service disabled veteran” on account of sleep apnea, a serious ailment but one not considered likely to be related to a military desk job.

A second story points to questions about possible over-billing for services rendered by Harding’s company in providing “interrogators assigned to Iraqi prisons”.

Without knowing anything about whether any of these allegations are true, we’re glad that the TSA won’t be handed over to a “leader” whose model for Israeli-style “engagement” and questioning of citizens is the sort of interrogation practiced in Iraqi prisons, even down to compelling citizens, when questioned by airline staff or travel agents or while under detention at airports like SFO where “screening” has been outsourced, to answer questions from private contractors rather than actual law enforcement officers.

Mar 27 2010

Heathrow body scanner operator: “‘I love those gigantic tits”

Even as the TSA continues to claim that virtual strip-search machines (body scanners, “whole body imaging”, or in the latest TSA euphemism “advanced imaging technology”)  at airport and other checkpoints don’t reveal excessively intimate physical detail of subjects’ bodies, and that the images can’t be captured, and less than two months after similar scanners were introduced in the UK, a screener at Heathrow Airport in London was spotted taking a photo of a scanner image and overheard talking about the detail it revealed of the woman’s breasts.

I’m sure you’ll all be reassured to hear that the screener has been “warned” by the police and might be (but hasn’t yet been) fired.

Ironically, the screener was caught only because his victim was a fellow airport worker.  An ordinary traveler probably wouldn’t have been in position to see or overhear what had happened, or have realized what it meant.

The TSA says that the capability to store and transmit images, which the TSA has required to be built into the scanners, is “disabled” on the scanners when they are in use.  But the TSA has declined to comment on whether these TSA-required features are disabled in hardware or software, what would be needed to re-enable them, who is authorized to re-enable them, or how those authorizations are carried out or controlled.