Thursday, December 28, 2006

Round-Up, Part I

My, oh my, what a long, strange week it's been...

First, at least in terms of priority, we lost three more greats: James Brown, President Gerald R. Ford, and former CBS executive Dr. Frank Stanton.

Then, of course, we had the usual Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukah/Festivus insanity, including the obligatory near-riots at several malls. Unfortunately, we also saw yet another fatal shooting rampage, also at a mall.

On the Homeland Insecurity front, a baby was sent through an X-ray machine at LAX. Fortunately, the TSA screener spotted the baby before he receieved an excessive dose of radioation. I suppose a baby's skeleton must look like a pair of toenail scissors in an X-ray.

Also on the TSA front, TSA has announced that airport workers will now be screened upon reporting for work. Mark Hatfield, the Federal Security Director at Newark Liberty Airport outside NYC, said, "it's not because we have suspicions about the employees, but we know they represent a body of people that terrorists can hide among." The screening, of course, will not apply to TSA staff, as they are -- apparently -- inherently trustworthy, despite the agency's record of hiring and retaining perverts, criminals and assorted losers (here and here, plus you can Google "TSA screeners arrested", which now yields 90,500 hits).

TSA's assumption of inherent honesty is tarnished somewhat by an incident in San Antonio, in which a man found a TSA screener's jacket for sale in a local thrift store. After TSA blew the guy off, he went to the local TV station with the story. Turns out, the TSA has at least 3719 missing uniforms and/or employee ID's.

Now bear with me on this...

Your average airport probably has at least 100 screeners (places like JFK, O'Hare, and LAX have more than 1000), who work various full- and part-time shifts. Because of TSA's treatment of the screeners, there is constant turn-over in the workforce, so it's entirely likely that not even the supervisors will recognize each and every person; therefore, they have to rely on uniforms and employee ID's. 3719 missing unforms and ID's means there's an excellent chance that some miscreant will get his/her/its hands on one and cause some trouble.

TSA's response? [Emphasis added]

"Yes I did," Martinez told News 4 during an on-camera interview. "When I first got the jacket, I looked in the phone book and I tried to contact somebody over at TSA. And I told them about the jacket, and they just told me it was a discarded uniform, and that was it. I didn't feel comfortable, but I didn't throw it away or give it away." Martinez said the TSA told him they didn't want it back.

Martinez is the man who found the jacket for sale.

Oh, and TSA lied to Congress about the problem: [Emphasis added]

Congressman Lamar Smith spoke with the Trouble Shooters about the problem during a recent visit to his office on the North Side of San Antonio. Smith sits on the Homeland Security Committee and did not know the problem was getting worse until we showed him the new information. That's because TSA sent him a letter in August claiming the numbers were much lower. In that letter, Assistant Secretary Kip Hawley told the Congressman that TSA did not have any idea of the number of missing uniforms and that only 1375 ID badges were reported missing. That's not true. TSA had the larger numbers in May, nearly four months before they sent the letter to Smith.

Yup, that's "inherent honesty" for you.

The Department of Homeland Security announced a couple of weeks ago that they were implementing new procedures to increase security in the shipping sector, which includes ports and railroads. In response, both the United States Department of Transportation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey revealed their own plans, which of course provide much better security than DHS's offering.

Gotta love 'em.

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