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Airport cops grope pregnant woman, jail her husband

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I Plead The 5th.
07:50 PM ET (US)
Dear ProtoHippy. I have read your comment and could not agree with you more. It would be easy to just dismiss these recent horrible changes to our country as philisophical biblical prophesy and to advice all to not worry because the Lord is coming to save us all.... But that is too easy, and besides, it does not offer much hope in the present situation as we see it now. Because we are IN the NOW. I used to think that one day there would be a revolt or revolution that changed everything, but unfortunately, I'm starting to feel that this won't happen until it's too late. Americans are hard headed. They won't stand up against anything until it starts to really interfere with their daily lives and safety. I already know the game plan. America's rights are slowley but surely being taken away, secretly and carefully without anyone noticing. They know that we are too consumed with who is going to the national championship, what new purse we are going to purchase on payday, or what is going to happen on the next episode of our favorite sitcom to do any real research into what is going on behind the scenes. We are lazy, we come home from work, plop down on the couch and whatever bs that is handed to us from CNN we take as the gospel truth. Our rights and freedoms are being taken away behind the curtain, in preparation FOR our revolt. By the time the S hits the F, it will be way too late to try and revolutionize anything. The same people who so proudly judge and ricicule me as a "conspiracy theorist" are not going to offer any solutions to our peril when the time comes, (and "I told you so" is horribly overrated.) instead you will see these same people as a nationwide clusterf**k of screaming and panicking in a huge sea of social stupidity. I know this may sound harsh, but I have never been into sugar coating anything. I have tried and tried to bring people to the light about what is going on and my outcries have fallen on deaf ears. I am tired of being made fun of and ridiculed. Perhaps in light of this, we deserve the fate that is knocking on our doors now. Mabie not. And anyway who knows? Mabie we can just hop in our Hummer H2's Or our Fancy new Vipers and Vetts and just runaway from it. Or mabie we could just be like Ian Woods and just say it doesn't exist.
09:15 PM ET (US)
you know, i try to be totally UN-racist to all communities, black, white, deaf, hearing, blind, sighted, etc, so it's taken a lot for me to say this:

i think america is possibly the most f*cked-up country on earth. kids d*cks are routinely chopped off for "religious" or pseudo-medical reasons, innocent peoples' telephone lines are bugged, each state governor (who seems answerable only to his/herself) can make or retract laws on a whim, people go nuts when janet jackson accidentally exposes a breast (yet showing violence seems to ok), a game where a ball is hardly ever, if ever, touched by the foot is called "football" (no doubt just to annoy the english, which is really childish - i'm sure calling english football "soccer" was just to annoy the english too), kids get carted off to juvenile detention centres for firing elastic badns or handcuffed because they won't obey a teacher who is frightening them, men and women get groped at airports or/and otherwise humilated/violated, and worst of all, there's no revolt, there's no mass outcry, worst of all, the citizens are DEFENDING all that cr*p in the name of "security" and other pseudo-reasons. i mean come one, is every american on crack or something??!!
09:10 PM ET (US)
These sick fucks need to get their heads cracked. These people are taking our beautiful country and making it worse than Nazi Germany at the height of Hitler's career. We have a meglomaniacal president that dreams of a Dictatorship (As long as he is the dictator), and has fashioned such a sneaky police state, that even rational people can't see what is going on to them. We have been herded like sheep, and then are constantly scared by our overlords with fake terrorists. Honestly, I can't wait to see the revolution rise up, cause if we don't do something soon, our kids and their kids are doomed.
NoMoreVisitsPerson was signed in when posted
01:59 PM ET (US)
Look - you can say whatever you want, defend this sort of thing however you choose, but the simple fact is that people living in countries outside the U.S. are not buying it the way so many Americans obviously are.

Canada is the U.S.'s biggest trading partner, largest undefended border, etc., etc. Nobody knows the States like Canadians. We used to be best friends. I would argue that that has changed - many of my friends have acknowledged in private conversation that they plan no further trips south of the border, & that they sure as hell are glad that they're on this side of it. I can only imagine that many people in Europe & elsewhere have made a similar decision in the past year or so.

Simply put, your country (& BTW I'm a dual citizen so I guess it's 'my' country too) is seriously, dangerously f**ked up. The closest analogy I can think of is a cop's mind. In a cop's mind, if you get any crap, you lash back, you crush the person bugging you, so they will never think of giving you crap again (if they're even able). Expecting protestors? Bring twice as many cops, & outfit them with shields, billy clubs, cameras, guns, trucks - just go WAY overboard. That is what the U.S. is doing. In no way would I compare the U.S. (& its current policies) with repressive regimes of the past - but I would say that the U.S. is becoming, for all intents & purposes, a police state.

Frankly, there's not a whole lot most people (or nations) can do about that - that's part of what makes it so scary. Still, it sickens me to come on here & see what I would assume to be rational, intelligent folks defending these kind of rampant stupid moves (ie. PATRIOT Act) as sensible or necessary. Of course it's your right. That doesn't make it right.

I'm raving a little bit here, yes, b/c I'm so pissed off. I used to come to the U.S. at least once a year - I have all my life. I know most Americans are decent people, but your government is approaching the rest of the world - not to mention its own citizens - like a cokehead cop whose decided that this is the end of the movie & he's going to break out the big guns & kick some serious ass or something. It's gone past being scary, now it's plain crazy. I just want to get out of the cop's sight at this point.
Ian WoodPerson was signed in when posted
09:24 AM ET (US)
Cory: in whose interest, exactly, is it to "roast civil liberties on a pyre of the smouldering 9-11 dead?"

As Robert pointed out, it's a little over a year after the 9/11 massacres, and we're still in crisis mode.

Which is more likely: some Freemason-like cabal somewhere, ready to go at a moment's notice with a carefully pre-coordinated plan to strip us of liberty, or a vast, slow-moving bureaucracy that, when prompted by circumstance to react quickly, produces something sloppy and ill-considered?

The beauty of the American system of government is its ability to fix itself, which in turn is largely the result of the citizenry's ability to complain about things they don't like. I'm not saying that the legislation passed in the wake of Septermber 11 is perfectly acceptable, but your rhetoric seems to assign sinister motives where, I think, none exist.
Edited 12-23-2002 09:25 AM
CatherineTheGrandPerson was signed in when posted
02:10 AM ET (US)
Responding to various points made in this thread:

To YesNo: I don't see where asking for some privacy in searches is equivalent to asking for no searches. The TSA gives you only two choices: consent to being groped(1) in public *Or* draw the scrutiny of Sauron by asking to be taken away for an unknown length of time to a private room for a private search. The latter "choice" is so risky that few will choose it. (i.e. one might have to wait a very long time(2), one might be put on a list, and the gut reaction people have to being separated from the group by authority- the adult version of being sent to the principals office- can be stressful.)

Is forcing a pregnant woman (or any person) to put some skin on display to all passers-by necessary? Prove it. What security goal is met that wouldn't also be met by having a few nearby privacy screens- translucent and shoulder high- available so other passengers cannot see the search? Why can't we ask that the TSA find multiple ways to accomplish a given goal- here, body pat downs- with multiple levels of privacy loss to choose from? Why does it have to be all or nothing, go with the one method that TSA bureaucrats came up with in some meeting or ask to be taken away to some back room?

As to the "we must accept anything the gov't asks because we're at war..." statements, well, no. First of all, criticising the gov't isn't just an all-American activity, it is *necessary to prevent bad ideas from remaining unchallenged*. Just because an idea is made to promote a good cause doesn't mean the idea itself is good or optimal. Especially if an idea came during an extra-emotional time- no matter how appropriate the emotions, decisions made in anger should later be reviewed in a less emotional state. We, instead, are going gung-ho on implementing any and all ideas in their original, anger/grief/fear driven form. And we treat criticism of the implementation as a rejection of the emotion that created it. Just because someone criticises a particular implementation doesn't mean they don't understand or don't agree with the goal.

And I still have a difficult time calling a response to terrorists a war, because that implies that the mass-murderers of 9/11 are warriors or soldiers, and I just cannot give them the dignity of that term. Yes, we know know that the world has changed, but it changed long before 9/11- we just became terribly aware of it that day (that a few individuals can cause death/destruction which used to require entire armies).

(1)pat downs can reach the upper thigh, the buttocks, the underwire area for women... areas that normally require an apology if you touch them accidentally. If circumstances require the security agents to touch these areas, they should be respectful, solemn and apologetic about it-- that you must do a painful act to further a good cause doesn't make the act less painful. They should not expect the passengers to just get used to it.
(2) similar to cases where passengers asked to be patted down by someone of the same sex when they weren't available. The wait could be 10-30 minutes, and they'd punish the request with extra-thorough bag searches.
Rich PersaudPerson was signed in when posted
01:22 AM ET (US)
Given discussion of total information awareness, it is unfortunate that we have only two disputed viewpoints to such alleged events in a public point of transit. Since passengers have successfully defended in-plane attacks, maybe their eyes can defend the integrity of legitimate inspections.

False positives are a double denial of service. First in on-locale opportunity cost to detection resources. Second in public triage of narratives like the one being discussed.

The right to a fair trial is due both passenger and security inspectors. When we asked security inspectors to make snap judgements on passenger safety, we agreed to compromise due process for the sake of immediate caution. An audit trail restores due process to snap judgements.

There are collaborative, self-organizing, spontaneous defenses against such denials of service. Below is a generic proposal and a citation. The defense pattern is not limited to preflight screening.

Client Inspection Auditing HOWTO 0.01 (draft proposal)

1. For each client inspected, select one male and one female client as inspection witnesses.

2. Each witness audits at least two inspections.

3. Witness rotation is done on alternate inspections to reduce collusion.

4. Body inspections are audited by same-gender witness.

5. On-locale claim of improper inspection requires confirmation by at least one witness.

6. Tune by public feedback from witness, client and inspector.

"Soft security" is inseparable from "hard security".

O'Reilly's 2001 P2P conference (powerpoint):

Wiki notes (html):
robertl30Person was signed in when posted
11:04 PM ET (US)
I hear you. I do. That's what I was meaning by training & process improvement needs. I agree, the rules shouldn't be secret. And I don't think they intentionally are. We're just in full out crisis mode here. We're at war. People seem to forget that. I think folks need to just be a lot more patient and try to work with the system rather than against it. Any other country probably would've just declared martial law by now and really locked things down. We're still way way too "free" in our ability to move about and get into sensitive areas. I mean, what's it going to take? The dirty bomb? A bio attack? A nuked port. You know what they say, one nuke can ruin your whole day.

I'm traveling by air tomorrow. I'm making very certain that I'm wearing loafers, my bags are unlocked, my gifts are unwrapped, I'm not carrying anything metalic, I have no carry on luggage. These aren't difficult rules to follow. I will glide thru security, I will flap my arms when told, I will change the display on my Treo. I will have my papers ready. Who in their right mind would cause a fuss at a security station in war time?
Cory DoctorowPerson was signed in when posted
09:26 PM ET (US)
Robert, you're drawing a completely false dichotomy there, namely that "tight" security and human dignity, fairness and accountability are exclusive.

"Training" will not make the system accountable. It will not make secret laws less secret. It will not iterate towards measure that identify a threat and its failure modes and then take steps to address those failure modes.

Secret security is inherently insecure -- and undemocratic. To quote Schneier, "anyone can design a security system that he can't figure out how to break." Secret laws and "security" measures that do not arise from real threats, but rather from an opportunistic drive to roast civil liberties on a pyre of the smouldering 9-11 dead do not make us secure.

When any person at an airport can give any traveller any order and cite secret regulations, and arrest, harrass, black-list and detain any person without cause, oversight or appeal, that does not make us secure.

Arguing that people who don't like it shouldn't travel ignores 100 years of civil rights struggles in America. The right to travel is fundamental -- as the courts have found again and again. Requiring internal passports is something that America nominally spent 50 years arming itself against as an unthinkable abridgement to liberty.

Trade freedom for security -- get neither.
robertl30Person was signed in when posted
09:15 PM ET (US)
Don't have a ton of sympathy for the victim here. Security at airports is tight. Really tight. There was this whole Sept 11th thing yeah? So security has been tightened. It's actually, as Cory points out, way way not tight enough. There does need to be some consistency in the process. That will come with training. It's new to everyone and people should be patient and work with the system.

The guy who got all hot and bothered and was called a menace? Sounds like he was a menace. Remove him from the situation and deal with him offline. Let traffic flow.

The woman who got all bothered by being asked to strip naked or what not. Here's the solution if that comes up: say, "No. I'd rather not do that." They'd ask why not you'd say you're embarrassed they'd take you to a side room or behind the security screens (that they have at my airport anyway (RDU)) and do the thing there. If they don't for some reason, then pick up your carryon and turn around and leave. No one forced anyone to strip.

Much ado about nothing anyway
Cory DoctorowPerson was signed in when posted
06:44 PM ET (US)
Ian, it's true that the world is imperfect and that there will always be authority figures who lack the desired even-handedness. Traditionally, we've checked against abuse of authority through interlocking oversight, through appeal, and through public regulation.

IOW, traditionally, the police enforced only public laws -- laws that were written down and subject to appeal, repeal and disagreement. In the case of airport security, though, the regulations are either not written down, or, if they are, they are not made available to the public. Moreover, there is no public means of appeal to these regulations -- if they exist -- because it is not clear who their authors are and who they are accountable to.

Thus, any bad egg with a badge can do virtually *anything* at an airport, and it is nigh-impossible for the victims of their abuse to appeal to higher authority.

It is precisely *because* this is "a human system, created by humans, run by humans, and administered by humans" that the absence of checks, balances and most of all accountability is so grevious.

This is *new*. The Homeland Security Act, USAPATRIOT Act, and Computer Security Enhancement Act, and, most of all, the nebulous regulation of "security" at our airports are a very different status quo than the one they replaced. Each of these blocks of policy, law and regulation seek to remove accountability and public process. Thus, abuse runs rampant.

A co-worker of mine has let his passport expire. A passport is two things: an identification token ("this person's name and DOB are __________") and an authentication token ("this person is authorized to cross borders"). An expired passport (provided that the photo is still recognizable) is a perfectly valid form of identification, even if it no longer serves as an authentication token.

Most of the time, this person boards airplanes with this ID without problem. He has flown some 70 flight segments since September 11, 2001, using this as his sole form of identification. However, earlier this month, the clerk at the check-in desk told him that his expired passport was not an acceptable form of ID. She was unable to point to an exhaustive list of acceptable ID, but merely asserted that this would not do the trick. My friend needed to jump through all manner of hoops to board his flight, and, ultimately, he was allowed on -- but not before the clerk had added annotations to his file identifying him as a troublemaker, to be subject to secondary and tertiary screening -- the traveller's equivalent of an anal probe.

He has applied for a California non-driver's ID (he attempted this once before, but was informed that his expired passport was insufficient for the purpose; however, because the DMV is required by law to make its rules public, he was able to return armed with a list of acceptable ID gleaned from the California DMV's web-site). However, he is rightfully anxious that one pissy check-in clerk's notation will continue to haunt him long after he is in possession of "acceptable" ID.

Meanwhile, my "government issued ID" is a valid Ontario Driver's License. Most Americans who see this card say, "WTF? Is this some kinda whacky Canadian credit-card?" It looks very official, but it also looks *nothing* like a US driver's license. No airline employee or security official has ever looked twice at this card -- presumably, I could whip up 10,000 driver's licenses from the "People's Republic of Upper Muldovia" and meet with the same reaction (provided that I set the expiry date for these IDs sufficiently far in the future).

There appear to be *no* rules here. The airports request "valid government issued photo-ID," but fail to disclose the criteria for validity. There is no appeal to the discretion of any airport personnel -- indeed, attempting such an appeal is likely to get you thrown out (and possibly barred from flying, or arrested).

I agree that this story is un-corroborated and should be viewed with skepticism. I know lots of people who behave *very* badly and have no idea that they are doing so -- it's quite possible that this guy acted like a complete lunatic (it's even possible that he fabricated the incident from whole cloth). Let's hope that some time in the near future, someone with the power and time to do a proper investigation will uncover and publish the truth.

That said, asserting that thinking that this story points to "the advent of a totalitarian machine is, quite simply, na´ve and uninformed," is far too sweeping. The new regulatory regime rips the accountability out of our world. People are quite rightly alarmed at the idea of power without accountability.
Edited 12-22-2002 07:46 PM
Ian WoodPerson was signed in when posted
06:18 PM ET (US)
Last year, the U.S. Airline system carried a total of 660 million passengers. To think that Mr. Monahan's story--or even 1,000 like it--constitutes the advent of a totalitarian machine is, quite simply, na´ve and uninformed.

It'd be nice if we lived in a perfect world, where the people who are put into positions of authority are all perfectly sensible, perfectly smart, and perfectly courteous, and the people who are subject to that authority are all perfectly reasonable and in full control of their tempers at all times. But we don't. It's a human system, created by humans, run by humans, and administered by humans.

roadknight, you should probably express your indignation at the bursting of your ideally happy bubble to the folks who popped it, although you might find that difficult, because they died along with the 3,000 people they murdered last year. There are many things in this world that just "shouldn't be allowed to exist." Instead of indignantly wishing it away, why not put some energy into thinking of ways to deal with the reality of the situation which take into account our need for increased security and the fundamental American respect for the rights of individuals?

Woot--at the risk of feeding you troll-biscuits: perhaps you would care to tell me where I can find the bodies of all of the dissidents who were killed by the American State Police during our purges in the 30s, or the 10 million Americans who were deliberately starved to death by our government during the 40s. The intelligentsia (or "smart people," as you call them), are the sort of people who tended to disappear in the middle of the night in the Soviet Union...yet, here they are in America, with a substantive voice, presenting ideas that are being debated and then discounted not because they're being suppressed, but because many folks have heard them and decided that they disagree with them. It's called "free speech," and it's one of the many freedoms that American citizens who are willing to make some small intellectual effort enjoy. It's why I can post to this forum without fear.
Edited 12-22-2002 06:19 PM
yesnoPerson was signed in when posted
05:51 PM ET (US)
Woot, America may have some problems, but get real. Get real. We are no "fascist military state worse than anything Soviet Russia could ever be". Go read a history book. We have a perhaps misguided planned war against a cruel dictator, some threats to personal privacy, and sundry other problems. And silly incidents like these.

In this case, we have paranoid and undertrained security guards who are forced into perfoming these absurd searches on random individuals because any "profiling" of likely threats is racist, or sexist, or ageist, or whatever. This problem is, if anything, symptomatic of America's very high sensitivity to civil rights.

And hey, CatherineTheGrand. The fourth amendment says "unreasonable" searches and seizures. You don't have any right to be free from search if you're going to ride on an airplane. First, airports and airlines are (mostly) private enterprises, not public. They can impose any sort of regulation on you they want. They are not the government. Regardless, though, it is silly and selfish to think that your "right" to be free from search overrides the rights of the other passengers to not be blown up. If you can have body searches at courthouses and rock concerts, you certainly can at airports.
Edited 12-22-2002 05:58 PM
roadknightPerson was signed in when posted
03:05 PM ET (US)
I really don't care about slanting or misplaced or trumped up righteous indignation. The plain and simple fact is that this shouldn't even be an urban legend in this country. We shouldn't have to wonder about how much of it is true and how much isn't but the whole situation just shouldn't be allowed to exist in the first place.
Solipsism my ass!
WootPerson was signed in when posted
03:01 PM ET (US)
When I was a kid, the coolest place in the world was America. Disneyland, great tv, candy, Coca Cola -- everything the US said or did was cool.

Now we see you ripping each other apart, a fascist military state worse than anything Soviet Russia could ever be. You scare the heck out of Europe and they're bucking against you. I don't mean to knock you, and I don't like saying it, but I wouldn't want to live in the US now. I hope the smart people can rescue you.
Ian WoodPerson was signed in when posted
02:58 PM ET (US)
Not to diminish the idiocy of the authorities in question or the severity of the public insult endured by Mr. Monahan and his wife, but: one person's encounter with a bonehead in authority does not an "onslaught of tyranny" make.

Give the solipsism a rest.
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