Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


TSA Approach to Threat Modeling, Part 3

It’s often said that the TSA’s approach to threat modeling is to just prevent yesterday’s threats. Well, on Friday it came out that: So, here you see my flight information for my United flight from PHX to EWR. It is my understanding that this is similar to digital boarding passes issued by all U.S. Airlines; […]


What Kip Hawley Doesn't Understand About Terrorism

Former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley was on NPR a few minutes ago, opining on the 2nd panty bomber. He said two remarkable things. First, that the operators of nudatrons, who see thousands of naked people per day, would notice the bomb. Second, he didn’t understand why Al Qaeda would continue to focus on underwear bombs. […]


Map of Where Tourists Take Pictures

Eric Fischer is doing work on comparing locals and tourists and where they photograph based on big Flickr data. It’s fascinating to try to identify cities from the thumbnails in his “Locals and Tourists” set. (I admit, I got very few right, either from “one at a time” or by looking for cities I know.) […]


Mubarak and TSA agree: No advantage to them leaving

In “TSA shuts door on private airport screening program,” CNN reports that “TSA chief John Pistole said Friday he has decided not to expand the program beyond the current 16 airports, saying he does not see any advantage to it.” The advantage, of course, is that it generates pressure on his agency to do better. […]


TSA News Roundup

Event: The Carnegie Institute for Science will be hosting “The Stripping of Freedom: A Careful Scan of TSA Security Procedures” Outrage: “SFO pilot exposes airport security flaws.” Apparently, pilots allowed to carry guns give up their free speech rights “causes the loss of public confidence in TSA…” (does anyone have a copy of the letter?) […]


Emergent Chaos has TSA "trolls," too

Over at We Won’t Fly, George Donnelly writes: I was about to delete an offensive comment on this blog – one of the very few we get – and thought, hmm, I wonder where this guy is posting from? Because, really, it is quite unusual for us to get nasty comments. Lo and behold, the […]


TSA News roundup

Act: Get this 2-page Passenger’s Rights Sheet: Outrage: “Gaping Holes in Airline Security: Loaded Gun Slips Past TSA Screeners” (Matthew Mosk, Angela Hill and Timothy Fleming, ABC News) “TSA + Police + JetBlue Conspire Against Peaceful Individual at JFK” (George Donnelly, “TSA Lies Again Over Capture, Storage Of Body Scanner Images” (Steve Watson, […]


TSA News roundup

Intrusiveness and outrage: “Homeland Security Is Also Monitoring Your Tweets” “‘Baywatch’ Beauty Feels Overexposed After TSA Scan” (David Moye, AOLnews) “the agent responded, ‘Because you caught my eye, and they’ — pointing to the other passengers — ‘didn’t.’” “POLICE STATE – TSA, Homeland Security & Tampa Police Set Up Nazi Checkpoints At Bus Stations ” […]


The TSA’s Approach to Threat Modeling

“I understand people’s frustrations, and what I’ve said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we’re doing is the only way to assure the American people’s safety. And you also have to think through are there other ways of doing it that are less intrusive,” Obama said. “But […]


Grope-a-thon: Today's TSA roundup

Outrage “Adam Savage: TSA saw my junk, missed 12″ razor blades” (Ben Kuchera, Ars Technica with video) “DHS & TSA: Making a list, checking it twice” (Doug Hadmann, Canada Free Press) claims that DHS has an internal memo calling those 59% of Americans who oppose pat downs “domestic extremists.” No copies of the memo have […]


News Round Up: New blog edition

I’ll be contributing to a new group blog, “I will opt out“. I think that concentrating and combining resources will help the people who care find all the news they want. My first post is at “More news from around the web”


Grope up: Enough is Enough edition

Analysis: “‘Strip-or-Grope’ vs. Risk Management” Jim Harper, Cato@Liberty blog. Really solid thinking, although I usually don’t like asset-centric approaches, I think that for the physical world they make more sense than they do in software threat modeling. TSA more likely to kill you than a terrorist. thread at Flyertalk (thanks Doug!) “Has Airport Security Gone […]


Daily Grope Up

Outrage: Transcript: Senate hearing on TSA, full-body scanners (yesterday, not one Senator cared.) Today’s hearing: TSA Success Story (You can win in line.) If someone had done that to me at a nightclub I’d call the cops. Violated Traveling with scars Search this one for “pump” to learn about a diabetic’s experience. What would […]


It's time to call your Senator!

There’s no news roundup today, the stories are flying, unlike people, who are sick and tired of the indignities, the nudeatrons and the groping. If you want to see them, you can follow me on twitter or National Opt Out day Tomorrow, there’s a Transportation Security Administration Oversight Hearing whose only witness is TSA Administrator […]


Daily Grope-Up: The Groping Will Continue Until You Drive Edition

“‘Naked’ scanners at U.S. airports may be dangerous: scientists” (National Post) The head of the X-ray lab at Johns Hopkins says “statistically, someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays.” “DHS chief tells pilot, tourism reps scans and patdowns will continue ” ( includes link to a CNN story “Growing backlash against TSA […]


Lies, Damned Lies and TSA Statements: Today’s news grope-up

Earlier this week, the White House responded to the UC San Francisco faculty letter on nudatrons. (We mentioned that here.) National Academy of Sciences member John Sedat says “many misconceptions, and we will write a careful answer pointing out their errors.” TSA has claimed that pictures will have blurred genital areas to “protect privacy.” Except […]


Today's TSA news grope-up

“Terror chief tries to board plane with banned liquids” (Mirror, UK) Obviously, the UK needs to get with the TSA program and exempt Ministers from search. Flight attendants union upset over new pat-down procedures “Airport security reaches new levels of absurdity” (Salon’s Ask the Pilot blog) “Know Your Options at the Airport” (ACLU of Massachusetts) […]


UC San Francisco Faculty on Nudatrons

A number of faculty at UCSF have a letter to John Holdren, the President’s advisor on science and technology. There’s a related story on, but I’d missed the letter. It appears the concerns of 3 members of the National Academy of Sciences have been completely ignored.


TSA Body Scanners News: Why show ID edition

First, a quick news roundup: EPIC is suing DHS for improper rulemaking, violations of the fouth ammendment, the privacy act, the religious freedom restoration act, and the video voyerism prevention act. The ACLU has a news roundup and a form to report on TSA behavior. The Airline Pilots Association advises pilots to show resistance. So […]


It's not TSA's fault

October 18th’s bad news for the TSA includes a pilot declining the choice between aggressive frisking and a nudatron. He blogs about it in “Well, today was the day:” On the other side I was stopped by another agent and informed that because I had “opted out” of AIT screening, I would have to go […]


Transparent Lies about Body Scanners

In “Feds Save Thousands of Body Scan Images,” EPIC reports: In an open government lawsuit against the United States Marshals Service, EPIC has obtained more than one hundred images of undressed individuals entering federal courthouses. The images, which are routinely captured by the federal agency, prove that body scanning devices store and record images of […]


The Liquids ban is a worse idea than you thought

According to new research at Duke University, identifying an easy-to-spot prohibited item such as a water bottle may hinder the discovery of other, harder-to-spot items in the same scan. Missing items in a complex visual search is not a new idea: in the medical field, it has been known since the 1960s that radiologists tend […]


Head of O'Hare Security says it sucks

In the eight months that I was the head of security under the Andolino administration, the commissioner of the busiest airport of the world, depending on who’s taking the survey, the busiest airport in the world, never once had a meeting with the head of security for the busiest airport in the world. Never once. […]


Terrorism Links and quotes

Ed Hasbrouck on “Lessons from the case of the man who set his underpants on fire” A Canadian woman who’s been through the new process is too scared to fly. “Woman, 85, ‘terrified’ after airport search.” Peter Arnett reported “‘It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,’ a TSA major said today. He […]


The New School of Air Travel Security?

As I simmer with anger over how TSA is subpoening bloggers, it occurs to me that the state of airline security is very similar to that of information security in some important ways: Failures are rare Partial failures are generally secret Actual failures are analyzed in secret Procedures are secret Procedures seem bizarre and arbitrary […]


Abdulmutallab/Flight 253 Airline Terror links

Air Canada is canceling US flights because of security. (Thanks, @nselby!) The New York Times reports that “Britain Rejected Visa Renewal for Suspect.” NPR reported that the State Department may have raised some sort of flag, but I don’t have a link. ABC is reporting that two of the “al Qaeda Leaders Behind Northwest Flight […]


Observations on the Christmas Bomber

Since there’s been so much discussion about the Chrismas Bomber, I want to avoid going over the same ground everyone else is. So as much as I can, I’m going to try to stick to lightly-treaded ground. This is a failure for the terrorists. A big one. Think about it; put yourself on the other […]


Abdulmutallab/Flight 253 Airline Terror links

The Economist “The latest on Northwest flight 253:” “the people who run America’s airport security apparatus appear to have gone insane” and “This is the absolute worst sort of security theatre: inconvenient, absurd, and, crucially, ineffective.” Business Travel Coalition, via Dave Farber and Esther Dyson, “Aviation Security After Detroit:” “It is welcome news that President […]


New Restrictions: No Using Electronic Devices for the Last Hour

Apparently, in the wake of thousands of deaths from idiots paying more attention to GPS, cell phones, GameBoys, iPods and other such electronic devices, TSA has announced a ban on all use of such devices for the last hour of your commute. No, just kidding. Apparently, they may be imposing new secret restrictions on use […]


TSA Security Operating Procedures

Via Gary Leff, we learn that “The TSA Puts Their Sensitive Security Screening Procedures Online For All To See (oops).” It’s another “we blacked out the doc without blacking out the data” story. The doc is 93 pages, and I don’t have time to more than skim it right now. I think that the redactions […]


Fingerprinted and Facebooked at the Border

According to the Wall St Journal, “Iranian Crackdown Goes Global ,” Iran is monitoring Facebook, and in a move reminiscent of the Soviets, arresting people whose relatives criticize the regime online. That trend is part of a disturbing tendency to criminalize thoughts, intents, and violations of social norms, those things which are bad because they […]


Private Thoughts on Race

So I’m sitting on the plane home from* Seattle, and I had a really interesting conversation on race with the woman next to me. We were talking, and she asked me, why is it so hard to have conversations like this. I thought that the answer we came to was interesting, and insofar as it […]


BBC Video of Liquid Explosives

The BBC has some really scary video “Detonation of Liquid Explosives.” However, as I thought about it, I grow increasingly confused by what it purports to show, and the implications. At the end of the day, I think there are two possibilities: It’s a fair representation, or it’s not. I’m leaning slightly towards the second. […]


Not because it is easy, but because it is hard

Forty years ago today, Apollo 11 lifted off for the moon, carrying Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins. The Boston Globe has a great selection of photos, “Remembering Apollo 11.” (Thanks to Deb for the link.)


Unthinkable Foolishness from TSA

“Flying from Los Angeles to New York for a signing at Jim Hanley’s Universe Wednesday (May 13th), I was flagged at the gate for ‘extra screening’. I was subjected to not one, but two invasive searches of my person and belongings. TSA agents then ‘discovered’ the script for Unthinkable #3. They sat and read the […]


The Cost of Anything is the Foregone Alternative

The New York Times reports: At least six men suspected or convicted of crimes that threaten national security retained their federal aviation licenses, despite antiterrorism laws written after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that required license revocation. Among them was a Libyan sentenced to 27 years in prison by a Scottish court for the […]


UnClear where the data will go

So Clear’s Verified Line Jumper service has shut down. Aviation Week has a blog post, “ Clear Shuts Down Registered Traveler Lanes.” Clear collected a lot of data: The information that TSA requires us to request is full legal name, other names used, Social Security number (optional), citizenship, Alien Registration Number (if applicable), current home […]


Ron Paul supporter inadvertently gets iPhones banned from U.S. aircraft

Via CNN: Steve Bierfeldt says the Transportation Security Administration pulled him aside for extra questioning in March. He was carrying a pocket edition of the U.S. Constitution and an iPhone capable of making audio recordings. And he used them. On a recording a TSA agent can be heard berating Bierfeldt. One sample: “You want to […]


TSA Kills Bad Program!

The government is scrapping a post-Sept. 11, 2001, airport screening program because the machines did not operate as intended and cost too much to maintain. The so-called puffer machines were deployed to airports in 2004 to screen randomly selected passengers for bombs after they cleared the standard metal detectors. The machines take 17 seconds to […]


Can't Win? Re-define losing the TSA Way!

We were surprised last week to see that the GAO has issued a report certifying that, “As of April 2009, TSA had generally achieved 9 of the 10 statutory conditions related to the development of the Secure Flight program and had conditionally achieved 1 condition (TSA had defined plans, but had not completed all activities […]


Just Landed in…

Just Landed: Processing, Twitter, MetaCarta & Hidden Data: This got me thinking about the data that is hidden in various social network information streams – Facebook & Twitter updates in particular. People share a lot of information in their tweets – some of it shared intentionally, and some of it which could be uncovered with […]


Ban Whole Body Imaging

Congressman Jason Chaffetz has introduced legislation seeking a ban on Whole-Body Imaging machines installed by the Transportation Security Administration in various airports across America. Describing the method as unnecessary to securing an airplane, Congressman Chaffetz stated that the new law was to “balance the dual virtues of safety and privacy.” The TSA recently announced plans […]


Request your travel records

Speaking of how you’re presented and perceived…”How to request your travel records,” by Ed Hasbrouck. By popular demand, I’m posting updated forms to request your PNR’s and other records of your international travel that are being kept by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)… If you […]


December 21, 1968

It was even more exciting on a black and white Zenith. Image: Nasa photo 6871798


Privacy Rights & Privacy Law

First, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the UK’s “DNA database ‘breach of rights’:” The judges ruled the retention of the men’s DNA “failed to strike a fair balance between the competing public and private interests,” and that the UK government “had overstepped any acceptable margin of appreciation in this regard”. The […]


Virgin America

I flew Virgin Atlantic for the first time recently, for a day trip to San Francisco. I enjoyed it. I can’t remember the last time I actually enjoyed getting on a plane. The first really standout bit was when the Seattle ground folks put on music and a name that song contest. They handed out […]


Chaos in the Airports! Baa! Baa!

Some days the snark just writes itself: The group that created Smokey Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog has a new potential icon: Stephanie the airport screener. A $1.3 million ad campaign launched this month teams the Ad Council and the Transportation Security Administration trying to change behavior of passengers who no longer automatically accept […]


Travel Chaos

NARA (National Archives) published notice in the Federal Register on October 27, 2008, of TSA’s submission to them (see Schedule Pending #3) of a proposed Records Schedule for Secure Flight Program. The actual Proposed Schedule was not published in the Register, only notice that you can request it and file comments on whether NARA should […]


The Twain Meeting

Some time ago, was on an extended stay in Tokyo for work. When one is living there, there are things one must do, like make an effort to live up to being a henna gaijin. I must disagree with those who translate that as “strange foreigner.” The proper translation is “crazy foreigner.” I’d never heard […]


Don’t Stay at the Renaissance Amsterdam Hotel

The night of September 29th, I had a room at the Renaissance Amsterdam hotel on Kattengat street. Actually I had two rooms, not that I slept in either of them. The first had too much street noise, and windows that didn’t block out the sound. The second, well, I woke up at 7.30 AM from […]


Cheetah Delays Luggage

A cheetah traveling from Oregon to Memphis Tennessee escaped from its cage on a Delta flight from Portland to Atlanta. Luggage was delayed, a baggage worked got a good fright (oh, yeah, imagine finding a cheetah on Halloween), but no baggage was destroyed. I would like to be able to link to the full story, […]


"Secure Flight" now part of the Bush Administrations Legacy

We welcome the Bush administration’s continuing dedication to excellence and security in developing clear and appropriate rules to prevent terrorists from flying: In this respect, there are major discrepancies between the (nonbinding) description at the start of the regulatory notice issued today, and the actual regulations that follow it (the last 20 pages of the […]


Identity Manglement

It was Dopplr that drove me over the edge on this rant. I almost feel bad for starting off with them, because as you will see, they’re just the bale of hay that broke the camel’s back. I was updating my travel schedule, which included a trip to St. Louis. It told me that by […]


TSA Badges

9Wants to Know has uncovered a new policy that allows airport screeners at Denver International Airport to bypass the same security screening checkpoints that passengers have to go through. … The new policy says screeners can arrive for work and walk behind security lines without any of their belongings examined or X-rayed. … At DIA, […]


TSA’s Brand

Passing through Portland’s PDX Airport, I was struck by this ad for SeaPort Airlines: Things are pretty bad for TSA when right after “faster travel,” a company lists “No TSA” as its second value proposition. (Bottom left corner.) It’s actually sort of impressive how much hate and resentment the TSA has built in the few […]


TSA Breaks Planes (and a link to infosec)

Aero News Network has a fascinating story, “ANN Special Report: TSA Memo Suggests That Agency ‘Encourages’ Damaging Behavior.” It covers how a TSA goon climbed up a plane using equipment marked “not a handhold,” damaging it and putting the flying public at risk. It continues: While this may be terrifying on a number of levels, […]


We're all in it together

Ryan Singel reports at 27B/6: The TSA was keeping the names of people who lost their wallets and needed to fly — even after ascertaining their identity and determining they were not a threat and could board a plane. It stored these names in a shared threat database. Then it decided that it won’t store […]


Cleared Traveler Data Lost

Verified Identity Pass, Inc., who run the Clear service have lost a laptop containing information of 33,000 customers. According to KPIX in “Laptop Discovery May End SFO Security Scare” the “alleged theft of the unencrypted laptop” lost information including names, addresses, birth dates and some applicants’ driver’s license numbers and passport information, but does not […]


Off to Belgium

I’m getting ready to leave for the 2008 Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium. I love this event, and I’m proud to have been involved since Hannes Federrath kicked it off as a workshop on design issues anonymity and unobservability. I’m also happy that Microsoft has continued to sponsor an award for outstanding research in Privacy Enhancing […]


Laptops and border crossings

The New York Times has in an editorial, “The Government and Your Laptop” a plea for Congress to pass a law to ensure that laptops (along with phones, etc.) are not seized at borders without reasonable suspicion. The have the interesting statistic that in a survey by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, 7 of […]


R-E-S-E-P-C-T! Find out what it means to me

The TSA apparently is issuing itself badges in its continuing search for authority. The attire aims to convey an image of authority to passengers, who have harassed, pushed and in a few instances punched screeners. “Some of our officers aren’t respected,” TSA spokeswoman Ellen Howe said. … A.J. Castilla, a screener at Boston’s Logan Airport […]


Praises for the TSA

We join our glorious Soviet brothers of the TSA in rejoicing at the final overthrow of the bourgeoisie conception of “liberty” and “freedom of expression” at the Homeland’s airports. The People’s Anonymous Commissar announced: This change will apply exclusively to individuals that simply refuse to provide any identification or assist transportation security officers in ascertaining […]


In the "couldn't have happened to a better set of people" department…

Fifteen people have escaped unharmed in the US state of Indiana after a sky-diving plane lost power 7,000ft (2,100m) from the ground. The pilot told the 14 skydivers on board to jump to safety, then crash-landed the plane. And the pilot was un-injured, according to the AP story. From Skydiving plane fails at 7,000ft, BBC. […]


Jonathan Ive's Sharia Style

I was on a business commuter flight the other day, which was also the maiden voyage of my MacBook Air. I had it out before takeoff. This was an international flight and I was in bulkhead. On international flights, they’re not as strict about not having your laptop on your lap during takeoff. This flight […]


More airport security toys

“Let’s play ‘airport security’,” says Foriegn Policy. It’s like playing Doctor, only with latex gloves and inappropriate touching. In an effort to help children understand and be comfortable and confident in the need and process of higher security protocols we’ve developed a new play and learning toy and resource web site to promote and educate […]


Cat Le-Huy, Dubai and the moral high ground

Cat Le-Huy is a friend of friends who has been “detained” entering Dubai. I put detained in quotes, because he’s been thrown into prison, where he’s now spent a few weeks. He claims he was carrying melatonin, which is legal in Dubai, and the authorities have charged that there was .001 gram (1 milligram) of […]


TSA's insecure "Traveller Identity Verification" site slammed by Oversight Committee

First exposed nearly a year ago, by DIY boarding pass mastermind Chris Soghoian, a TSA web site intended to help travelers improperly recorded on watch lists has been slammed by a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report: TSA awarded the website contract without competition. TSA gave a small, Virginia-based contractor called Desyne Web Services […]


Clark Kent Ervin on TSA Security

Normally, it’s not news when someone takes aim at TSA policies like this: If you are someone who suspects that what is billed as “aviation security” is often more show than substance, you are not alone. In fact, you are part of what Nixon aides used to call the “silent majority.” The security bureaucracy seems […]


Working on the Traveling Band

If you travel a lot, you’re used to dealing with many network difficulties. For a while now, I’ve been traveling with an Airport Express, which has made life a lot easier. I set it up to use DHCP, plug it into the hotel Ethernet, and go. At the very least, it means I can work […]


Laboratories of Security?

There’s a story in USA Today, “Most fake bombs missed by screeners.” It describes how screeners at LAX find only 25% of bombs, at ORD, they find 40%, and at SFO, 80%: At Chicago O’Hare International Airport, screeners missed about 60% of hidden bomb materials that were packed in everyday carry-ons — including toiletry kits, […]


TSA Violates Your Privacy, Ties themselves in Little Knot of Lies

There’s a story in InformationWeek about the latest TSA privacy violation, “TSA Promises Privacy For Subjects Of Clothing-Penetrating Scans:” “We are committed to testing technologies that improve security while protecting passenger privacy,” said TSA administrator Kip Hawley in a statement. “Privacy is ensured through the anonymity of the image: It will never be stored, transmitted, […]


What Secure Flight Really thinks about you

You can find out, by making a request under the privacy act. “Read Your Own DHS Travel Dossier.” Good commentary and context at Threat Level, “Howto: Check Your Homeland Security Travel File.”


1.5 billion, and whaddaya get?

I wrote this post sitting on a plane to Montreal. There were all sorts of announcements about how you had to be on international flights thirty minutes before takeoff, to make Congress happy: Congress mandated that DHS’ Customs and Border Protection (CBP) establish a requirement to receive advance information on international passengers traveling by air […]


From the Advances in Aviation Desk

The Beeb reports, “Goats sacrificed to fix Nepal jet,” in which we learn that two goats were slaughtered in sacrifice to the Hindu god of sky protection, Akash Bhairab, in front of a Boeing 757. Airline official Raju KC said to Reuters, “The snag in the plane has now been fixed and the aircraft has […]


Heresy of the Day

Riffing on Adam’s last post, it has been amusing to watch the whole problem with Senator Craig. However, as I’ve chomped my popcorn, there’s been one thing I keep thinking: what if the guy’s telling the truth? What if he was stupidly caught for not doing much of anything, and the stupidly plead guilty in […]


Camouflage as Security

This is a new twist on an old trick. SFGate reports in, “‘I didn’t eat and I didn’t sleep’ — Coin dealer flies dime worth $1.9 million to NYC’” that coin dealer John Feigenbaum transported a $1.9M rare coin (an 1894-S dime) from its previous owner, Daniel Rosenthal, who lives in the Bay Area to […]


A Small Breath of Sanity in Airline Regs

The New York Times reports, “U.S. Will Allow Most Types of Lighters on Planes” Federal aviation authorities have decided to stop enforcing a two-year-old rule against taking cigarette lighters on airplanes, concluding that it was a waste of time to search for them before passengers boarded. The ban was imposed at the insistence of Congress […]


Movie Plot Threat No Longer a Metaphor

Director Mike Figgis flew into LAX airport and was detained for five hours because he oopsed. He said, “I’m here to shoot a pilot.” On the one hand, yes indeed, on the list of things you shouldn’t say while in Immigration, “I’m here to shoot a pilot” is right up there with being careful how […]


Billions for Fashion Police, but Not One Cent for Tribute Bands!

Woo hoo! I feel so much safer! The TSA reports, “Transportation Security Officers SPOT Passenger in Fake Military Uniform at Florida Airport.” Picture at right is my foofification of the picture on the TSA site. Our brave protectors write: A TSA behavior detection team at a Florida airport helped catch a passenger allegedly impersonating a […]


TSA on PBJ: No way

United States congressman Tim Ryan is interested in bringing attention to the meager allotment the U.S. food stamp program provides. This program, for those who don’t know, provides what amounts to scrip which can be used for qualified food purchases to persons who meet a certain needs test. The average food stamp recipient receives $21.00 […]


Animations of US Flight Patterns

Aaron Koblin of UCLA has an amazing website of animations he’s done using FAA flight data. It’s well worth a look.


TSA Can’t Keep a Secret

Alternate title: “If schadenfreude is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” Ryan Singel reports that the “TSA Lost Sensitive Data on 100,000 Employees.” This is the same agency which wants to collect all your personal data so they can deny you the right to get on a plane without any sort of legal proceedings. […]


On Liquid Explosives

Wired’s Danger Room blog has an interesting quote from the inventor of a liquid explosive in “‘Liquid Landmine,’ Qaeda Tool?:” My advice would be to stick with PETN [a high explosive] and rattlesnakes.


Secure Flight @ Home

Prof. R. H. Anssen of the Univeristy of Florence, Colorado working under a Department of Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects grant has released a new paper discussing improvements to SecureFlight that make it much more scalable, while adding in grid-computing and privacy-friendly aspects as well. Expanding upon the ideas of K. P. Hilby and J. […]


Information Leaks

I was on the last flight back west on a Friday night, glad that it looked likely I was going to get home. Even better, I’d been upgraded. I flopped into my seat, pulling out the noise-canceling headphones, laptop power adapter, books, and all that other stuff that makes a long flight an oasis of […]


Flying Without an ID

I’ve been inspired by Christopher Soghoian’s efforts to fly without having to show ID. I figured that my return flight from RSA was the perfect time to try it for myself. I was flying without my family and had lots of time to spare. Chris has previously reported on fun flying out of SFO, I […]


From the "A Child Shall Lead Them" Desk

Response #24 in a discussion on FlyerTalk: My 10-y.o. son, like many kids, believes that backpacks have to be overloaded to work. Recently, at LAX T-6 (shoe carnival central), the TSA removed 2 partially full water bottles from his backpack after x-ray screening. On the return flight, at JFK T-9, they found 2 more, both […]


A Pledge

Having thought about my previous post, “On airport advertising,” I’d like to see what content-based restrictions are in place. If the ACLU applies and is accepted, I’ll donate $500 for the ACLU to buy bins that advise people of their rights when passing through airport screening. [Update/clarification: I’ll pay for the ACLU to inform travellers […]


On airport advertising

Via Eric Rescorla, who has insightful comments, and Boingboing, we learn that “TSA Pilot Would Offer Ads at Airport Security Checkpoints.” A few chaotic comments: What authority does TSA have to sell advertising? Isn’t Congress supposed to fund their operations? The advertisers will “who will provide divestiture bins, divestiture and composure tables, and metal-free bin […]


United Airlines Customer Service

I was wondering what United Airlines customer service did. This screen capture seems to make it all clear. United Airlines has been featured before, in “Dear United.” To be fair, I met a very nice and human supervisor while I was stuck in Denver due to their crew change, but he maintained the claim that […]


DHS says one thing, does another. Film at 11.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Privacy Office conducted a review of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) collection and use of commercial data during initial testing for the Secure Flight program that occurred in the fall 2004 through spring 2005. The Privacy Office review was undertaken following notice by the TSA Privacy Officer of preliminary […]


So I’m Idly Curious…

“Please put your bra in the bin,” at Flyertalk: items used to augment the body for medical or cosmetic reasons such as mastectomy products, prosthetic breasts, bras or shells containing gels, saline solution, or other liquids; and, … 1. Separate these items from the liquids, gels, and aerosols in your quart-size and zip-top bag. 2. […]


Farts on a plane!

Or, “It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup”. It may be one problem airline security officials never envisioned — a passenger lighting matches in flight to mask odors from her flatulence. The woman’s actions resulted in an emergency landing on Monday in Nashville of an American Airlines flight bound for Dallas from Washington, D.C., said […]


Sample Comments for TSA?

Last night, I blogged about the ridiculous TSA Scores and how hard it is to comment on them. Then I realized that I don’t have a good sample comment. Well, I have lots of comments, but now and then we pretend that this is a family blog, and that anyone under 21 might be interested […]


Dear TSA, How Do We Contact Thee?

Phil Schwan, who was able to read to the end of “Homeland Security tracks travelers’ meals” without blowing a gasket, noticed that they said they’d only gotten 15 comments: I tried for 30 goddamn minutes to figure out how to comment. That’s why there are only 15 comments. All I could find was a Privacy […]



How’d you like to be the person at British Airways who has to write the letter to 30,000 people explaining that they might have been exposed to a radioactive poison while traveling on BA flights? Remarkably, authorities will not confirm that the substance detected was Polonium, yet passengers on the flights are being asked to […]


Bag Matching and Lost Bags

Every now and then, it seems like TSA can do something right. I’ll let you know. In the meantime, the New York Times tells us that “Frustration Grows at Carousel as More Baggage Goes Astray:” The Transportation Department reported that 107,731 more fliers had their bags go missing in August than they did a year […]


On Printing Boarding Passes, Christopher Soghoian-style.

Yesterday, I blogged about Christopher Soghoian’s print your own boarding pass tool. Quite a few people (including the FBI) are taking the wrong lesson from this. Wrong lessons include “we shouldn’t be allowed to print boarding passes,” “we should check ID at the gate,” and “Christopher Soghoian should be arrested.” The right lesson is that […]


"You’re doing a heck of a job, Kip"

Sure, it’s all over the web, but you might be living under a rock, or in a reality-free zone, and have missed “Make Your Own Fake Boarding Pass” at 27b/6. The short version of the story is that someone has automated the process of creating your own fake boarding passes. Don’t worry, though, Osama isn’t […]


Marty: It's All About Transparency

Marty Roesch writes “Miracle Weapon in the War on Terror Discovered!.” You’d think he’d have more sympathy for the need for standardized transports while doing high-speed inspection.


Well, At Least TSA Isn’t Driving People to Drink

“Everybody personally and professionally that I know who is afraid to fly gets their hands on Xanax,” said Jeanne Scala, a psychotherapist in Roxbury, N.J., adding that she has seen an increase in patients and friends talking about taking medication for flying jitters. “They’ll do anything to take the edge off the anxiety of sitting […]


A Total Eclipse of Rational Thought

Nick Owen brings us the story of how passengers on a Paris-Mauritius flight are suing Air France, because Bonnie Tyler sang “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” (He also brings us the headline, and the closing thought, “I assumed that first class was always filled with song. If the first class can’t sing love ballads, then […]


Air Safety: Terrorism and Crashes

There have been two fatal air accidents this week, one in Ukraine in which 170 people died, and one in Kentucky, in which 50 people died. In neither case is terrorism being blamed as I write this. The safety engineering that makes air travel so safe is astounding. The primary activities, from pilot training to […]


New Airport Security Procedures

RyanAir of England is decidedly non-plussed by the UK security theater, and is threatening to sue. (Via Boingboing.) Remember, emptying the planes not only hurts the airlines, but when it pushes people to drive instead of fly, it kills people. Not in as newsworthy a fashion, but more people die driving than flying.


New Security Measures: Effective, Non-intrusive

Or not. The BBC reports that “10,000 bags misplaced at airports,” and a “Boy boards [a] plane without tickets (sic).” Meanwhile, here at home, we have a program that engages in behavioral profiling in some airports. How effective is it? The New York Times reports in “Faces, Too, Are Searched at U.S. Airports:” In nine […]


Emergent Effects of Security Rules

In London, and apparently some other parts of Europe, you can no longer bring electronics on board, including laptops, which are this here Jazz Combo’s instruments of choice. It’s much worse for actual musicians, many of whom have antique and irreplacable instruments which they usually carry on board. The NY Times reports in “Tighter Security […]


Clue me in?

I have to fly (from PDX to MDW) Sunday AM. Anybody flown domestically who can tell me what the real-world impact of the new rules has been in terms of delays at security? As Leslie NielsenLloyd Bridges might say “I picked the wrong four days to go on vacation”. Updated: Lloyd, not Leslie. Thanks, Asteroid.


Airline Threats: Nothing to Fear Except Fear Itself

I’m glad to hear that they caught a set of people with real plans and capabilities to carry out an act of mass murder. Too many of the recent groups arrested have fit better into the “round up some suspects” line of thinking. I don’t have a lot to add to FDR’s fine words, but […]


Sky Marshalls Have Suspicious Behavior Quotas?

The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they’re required to submit at least one report a month. If they don’t, there’s no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments. Even better, the people who are “suspicious” are put into secret databases with no way to find out why their […]


EU Courts Rule Against PNR Sharing with USA

The European Court has ruled the US/EU treaty on data sharing around air travelers is not legal. (I’m not saying “about air travelers” because I read Ed Hasbrouck, and thus know that PNRs contain data on more than just the travelers.) That’s not why I’m posting. I’m posting because of this choice quote from the […]


(Adam In Seattle)

I’m in Seattle this week for some work-related stuff, and have some free evenings. If you’re in Seattle and would like to get together, drop me a note.


Dear TSA,

You’re incompetent. We don’t trust you. Please stop wasting our time. Love, El Al Israel Airlines. No, really. Ok. Maybe the quote isn’t precisely their words, but that’s the message. See “El Al wants to do its own bag screening at Newark airport.” (Via Gary Leff.)


On "Feds' Watch List Eats Its Own"

Ryan Singel opens an excellent article “Feds’ Watch List Easts Its Own,” with a pertinent question. The article is worth reading for its enumeration of how the watch list catches senior military and State Department officials, who also can’t get off the list. It opens: What do you say about an airline screening system that […]


Boarding Passes, Privacy, and Threat Models

There’s a great article in the Guardian, “Q. What could a boarding pass tell an identity fraudster about you? A. Way too much:” This is the story of a piece of paper no bigger than a credit card, thrown away in a dustbin on the Heathrow Express to Paddington station. It was nestling among chewing […]


I Bet He Failed The Background Check

Staff Sgt. Daniel Brown is having trouble getting on a plane. He’s apparently known to work in close proximity to terrorists: A Minnesota reservist who spent the past eight months in Iraq was told he couldn’t board a plane to Minneapolis because his name appeared on a watch list as a possible terrorist. Marine Staff […]


DHS Spokesman Brian J. Doyle Arrested

The deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security was arrested last night on charges that he used the Internet to seduce an undercover Florida sheriff’s detective who he thought was a 14-year-old girl, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said. Brian J. Doyle, 55, was arrested at his Silver Spring home at 7:45 p.m. […]


TSA: 0 for 21 in a Game They Rigged

“In all 21 airports tested, no machine, no swab, no screener anywhere stopped the bomb materials from getting through. Even when investigators deliberately triggered extra screening of bags, no one stopped these materials,” the report said. … The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had no comment on the report but said in a statement that detecting […]


Dear United

It would be so nice if you could put the same information on the web, the departures board, and the gate. I’d like to now say KTHXBY, but I can’t, because no one here seems to know when my flight is leaving. I know, you all don’t do a lot of business in Denver, so […]


Hasta La Vista Secure Flight

As mentioned on Freedom To Tinker and by Lauren Gelman, at the Center for Internet and Security, the TSA has mothballed it’s plans to deploy Secure Flight. Though the TSA will surely come up with something else, this is definitely a step in the right direction.


TSA Records

Back in August, (“Demand Your records“) I mentioned the effort to request, under the Freedom of Information Act, records relating to the TSA’s illegal data grab on Americans. In December, I got a response, and share a redacted copy here. All redactions are mine. (The whole process of redaction is remarkably difficult, but that’s a […]


Bugger Frequent Flyer Miles

I want Frequent Flyer Hours. They’d work almost the same. You’d get 550 or so points per hour from gate to gate. So all that time, sitting on the runway, circling in a holding pattern, waiting for the previous plane to vacate your gate? All would be paid back in some small way to the […]


Tens of Thousands Mistakenly on Watchlists

[Important update below] Nearly 30,000 airline passengers discovered in the past year that they were mistakenly placed on federal “terrorist” watch lists, a transportation security official said Tuesday. Jim Kennedy, director of the Transportation Security Administration’s redress office, revealed the errors at a quarterly meeting convened here by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Data […]


TSA to Revise Rules

[Updated with data from NYT] A new plan by the Transportation Security Administration would allow airline passengers to bring scissors and other sharp objects in their carry-on bags because the items no longer pose the greatest threat to airline security, according to sources familiar with the plans. The TSA’s internal studies show that carry-on-item screeners […]


Australian Minister Vanstone on Stupid Security

An Australian Senator has created a bit of a kerfuffle by saying what everyone has thought in private. Bruce Schneier comments: During her Adelaide speech, Senator Vanstone implied the use of plastic cutlery on planes to thwart terrorism was foolhardy. Implied? I’ll say it outright. It’s stupid. For all its faults, I’m always pleased when […]


Kill Bill's Browser (and Comments)

Some folks have put up a site, “Kill Bill’s Browser,” based on Google’s offer to pay up to $1 for each Firefox/Google Toolbar install. It offers up both good and entertaining reasons to switch: 7. It will make Bill Gates soooooooooo mad. Seriously– super, super mad. And even more than Bill, let’s think about Steve […]


Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to Hire Angelina Jolie

In the midst of a CBC story about how a consultant went through “door after door” in Toronto’s Pearson airport (“Investigation highlights security concerns at Canadian airports“), we’re treated to these lovely tidbits: Mark Duncan, chief operating officer for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, the agency tasked with providing security at Canadian airports, says […]


First Hand Report about New TSA Indignities

In “GE Puffer Stinks of Dr. Strangelove,” Kim Cameron writes about his experiences with the new explosive detection machines: People, I really hated the GE product. It is tiny, and closes around you. I felt seriously claustrophobic. Then it shot bursts of air at me so hard it actually hurt. I had been told there […]


Airport Screening Is Not A Game?

A few weeks ago, I reported on PlayMobil’s airport screening playset in “From The Mouths of Toymakers.” Dan Solove shows his true commitment by buying one, and documenting his hours of fun in “The Airline Screening Playset: Hours of Fun!” Read it.


Sweet Land of Databases

In “Stuck on the No-Fly List,” Ryan Singel discusses the procedure for, no not getting off the list [1], but for getting onto yet another “cleared” list.[2] Confused? I was too. The head of the Terrorist Screening Center [3] told me recently that I’d mixed up “No-Fly” and “Selectee.” As Daniel Solove explains in “Secure […]


From The Mouths of Toymakers

We all understand that Ryan Singel deserves a break from reporting on stories like “TSA Chief Nixes Commercial Databases” or “Advisory Panel: Delay Secure Flight” or even “[TSA] Advisory Panel Report Made Public.” Reporting on the duckspeakers and their plans to grope us all in the name of liberty is enough to wear anyone down. […]


Small Bits: Alex Haislip, Chinese Censorship, TSA Xrays

Alex Haislip is blogging up a storm at VC Action. I love journalist bloggers; there’s so much interesting backstory that they talk about. And working at Red Herring, Alex has more dirt than he could dish and stay in business. 😉 Curt Hopkins points to a fascinating story about the folks who run the great […]


Caption Contest

I took this picture of a sign, lying on its side, near gate A12 of the Atlanta airport on August 16th, 2005. The photo is what I saw; it has not been retouched. It needs a caption, and I am simply flabbergasted.                


Demand Your Records

In her “On the Record” blog, Ann Harrison (Hi Ann!) covers how to use the privacy act to request the records TSA collected, illegally, on millions of innocent people. Incidentally, Arthur Anderson was shut down for destroying data like this.


US Air Force Hack and TSA

I just blogged about a breach of data which could be used for ID theft in “US Air Force, 33,000 SSNs, Hacker.” I’d like to tie that to a story I mentioned earlier this week, “TSA May Loosen Ban on Razorblades, Knives:” The Aug. 5 memo recommends reducing patdowns by giving screeners the discretion not […]


TSA to Look Through Your Clothes

[Update: Welcome Buzzflash readers! If you enjoy this post, please have a look around, you might enjoy the air travel or privacy category archives.] USA Today reports “TSA hopes modifications make X-ray not so X-rated.” The TSA now hopes to test modified “backscatter” machines in a few airports this fall that will solve the privacy […]


TSA Sued by Real Americans

A group of Alaskans have gotten tired of being jerked around by TSA and filed suit in the US District Court in Anchorage. Read the story at TSA Secrecy Must Stop.


TSA Roundup

Allow me to begin by shocking my regular readers with a few words of praise for TSA: Ryan Singel reports that they found a bomb, in “ Screeners ID IED .” Of course, that’s 1 bomb:1,000,000 nail clippers, but still. It’s good to see that they can find the bombs. When they’re not harassing babies […]


If You Have Nothing to Hide…

In “Behind-the-Scenes Battle on Tracking Data Mining,” the New York Times reports that the Department of Justice really does care about privacy, and really doesn’t want those nosy Congressional committees poking about how the government operates. So, why should they care? Are they hiding something? Of course, this being a New York Times article, there’s […]


What Do You Have to Do To Get Fired Here?

Ryan Singel has the scoop. The GAO report to Congress is also covered in the New York Times, “Flight Database Found to Violate Privacy Law:” “Careless missteps such as this jeopardize the public trust and D.H.S.’ ability to deploy a much-needed, new system,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, wrote on Friday to Secretary Michael […]


TSA Lies, Could Face Time Fines

Homeland Security officials who defied Congress and misled the public by creating secret files on American citizens while testing a new passenger screening program may have engaged in multiple counts of criminal conduct, and at least one employee has already lied to cover-up the misdeed. Read “TSA Lies, Could Face Fines” at Secondary Screening. Pictured […]


Terminal Futility

I think I had also noticed that there are not enough plastic bins or tables to line them up on, and that “X-ray machines that examine carry-on baggage sit idle as much as 30 per cent of the time.” The time elapsed between Sept. 11, 2001, and today’s writing (1,364 days) is only slightly less […]


Omega World Travel, 80,000 CCs, Laptop

The Washington Post reports, “FBI Probes Theft of Justice Dept. Data” The FBI is investigating the theft of a laptop computer containing travel account information for as many as 80,000 Justice Department employees, but it is unclear how much personal data are at risk of falling into the wrong hands. Authorities think the computer was […]


I Could Kill You With These Nose Hair Clippers!

Like I said, I do like rules, rules that make sense. But this is a form of institutional insanity, and someone needs to do an intervention. When a soldier in full uniform, in the company of nothing but other soldiers, is allowed to retain the bayonet for his M-16 and his M-16, yet has to […]


Emergent Bits of Security

(Updated shortly after posting with Eric Rescorla’s evidence presentation.) Nick Owen has a post about Net Present Value and Annual Average Loss Expectancy. If you think security is all about vulns and 0day, you probably don’t need to read this post, and your boss is going to keep rejecting your spending proposals. Carrie Kirby argues […]


Small Bits of Chaos: Airports, Junk Mail and Employment Law (Context-free)

Scared Monkeys asks “Could Iris Scanning be Coming To an Airport Near You?” (As if the TSA hadn’t wasted enough money on machines that don’t work, or seizing zippo lighter cameras.) Maybe the camera in their iris scanner was busted? New blog “The Dunning Letter” claims to be from a long-time junk mailer, now repentant. […]


$4.5 Billion and Whaddaya Get?

If you’re the Department of Homeland Security, another day older and deeper in debt. The New York Times reports on “U.S. to Spend Billions More to Alter Security Systems:” Passenger-screening equipment at airports that auditors have found is no more likely than before federal screeners took over to detect whether someone is trying to carry […]


Off To BlogNashville

I’m finishing my coffee, and about to hop in the car for BlogNashville, and the Anonymous Blogging Roundtable.


Corporate Welfare from TSA

USA Today reports “U.S. asks for more data on travelers” The federal government plans to begin collecting the full names and birth dates of air travelers this summer in its latest effort to screen passengers for possible links to terrorism. In a few weeks, the Transportation Security Administration will notify airlines, travel agents and online […]


Single Serving Friend: Technology For Staying In Touch

Following up on my earlier post about staying in touch, there’s a bit of technology that I’ve been meaning to build for, well, over a year now, and haven’t gotten to it. I was in Portland, Oregon for business, and someone I was speaking with said “Hey, you know Lucas Nelson is there this week?” […]


Small Bits: Airport Security, Tax Web Bugs

Stupid Security covers an AP story: Security at U.S. airports is no better under federal control than it was before the Sept. 11 attacks, a key House member says two government reports will conclude. None of us here [at Stupidsecurity] are surprised. The real fun begins with the second paragraph: “A lot of people will […]


Small Bits of Security Chaos: Airports (2), Bastille Linux adds metrics

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General has written a report on TSA security: Improvements are still needed in the screening process to ensure that dangerous prohibited items are not being carried into the sterile areas of airports, or do not enter the checked baggage system. In our report on the results of […]


Hasbrouck on RFID Passports

In his closing CFP keynote, Bill Scannell of asked for voice votes by the audience on whether a series of government measures including the use of secretly and remotely-readable RFID chips in passports were stupid or evil. “Both” seemed to be the predominant response. I and some others (including Ryan Singel of Wired News […]


59 breaches at Lexis-Nexis

[T]he company said just 2% of those informed by the company in March of the security breach had accepted its offer of free credit monitoring and none had reported identity theft. All the others will also be offered the services it said. (From CNN, or see the statement here.) So, let’s review. A slew of […]


Dear American Airlines

Over at Boing-Boing, Cory posts the latest in his saga of having American Airlines ask for a written list of his friends. As I thought about this story, I realized something very worrisome. I fly American! I also realized that I don’t know if I’ll have the right papers with me when I do. So […]


Small Bits: Hell, TSA, Insurance, Mutual Funds, Telephone Privacy

Asteroid analyzes Sisyphean volunteers and the modern condition in a brilliant essay. It just goes to show, the Greeks really did invent everything. Robert Poole and Jim Harper debate the TSA in “Transportation Security Aggravation” at Reason. Tyler Hamilton looks at two schemes to cut your auto insurance premiums by monitoring your driving, and their […]


No Fly List: Welcome, Salman Rushdie

D Magazine is looking for a private plane to transport Salman Rushdie so he can speak at an event in Dallas. Apparently, he’s been denied the ability to board a plane. Maybe someone realized he’s associated with Islamic Terrorists? (Via Virginia Postrel.) In other news, the Coalition of Airline Pilots Association has released an airline […]


(T)ourism (S)uppression (A)gency

Webflyer has a good post about the economics of new security rules that the TSA wants to impose: Requiring information to be submitted an hour before flight takeoff involves a full 75 minutes greater notice than currently provided. This will mean passengers turning up at the airport at least an additional hour in advance of […]


Good Thing We're Checking IDs

Normally, I try hard to bring you only the freshest news. This has been all over the blogosphere, but I can’t resist: Slate on bypassing airport ID checks. [Other commentary on why they’re bad in the “air travel” category of this blog. Are you listening, David Neslon?]


Small Bits of Irony: Secure Flight, Insecure Borders

Bruce Schneier talks about the Secure Flight being an improvement over the current watchlist system, but can’t give us details. The new system will rely on more information in the reservation. But if we don’t have that more information on the person on the watchlist, what will happen? Eg, if there’s no known birthday for […]


Small Bits: Secret Law and Security, Root-Fu, New Blog, and Canadians Stagnate

Cory Doctrow points to a letter he’s sent American Airlines about The security officer then handed me a blank piece of paper and said, “Please write down the names and addresses of everyone you’re staying with in the USA.” and his Kafka-esque experience in trying to find out why they were asking. Good on Cory […]


Educated Pat-Downs

Eric Rescorla has two good posts on screening at Educated Guesswork. I’d still like to expand the range of questions, and ask, is intense personal screening effective or needed? Can we use air marshals, different aircraft designs, and armed pilots so that we don’t need to compare rub-downs to millimeter-wave xrays?


TSA Backs Down

Starting today, the federal Transportation Security Administration is telling its screeners to keep their hands to the “chest perimeters” of women unless handheld metal detectors beep when waved over their breasts. I’ve mentioned outrage at TSA intrusiveness in the past. (From, via CSOOline.)


Three By Froomkin

Michael Froomkin has three nice posts today. First, Inside The TSA, we learn that power tends to corrupt: This account of the goings-on at the MIA TSA branch, brought to you by the feisty local Miami New Times, is worse than not pretty. It’s pretty ugly: allegations of theft from passengers’ bags, sexual harassment (of […]


BarlowFriendz: A Taste of the System

John Perry Barlow writes about the apparently limitless suspension of the Constitution that’s already happened in airports. But randomly searching people’s homes against the possibility that someone might have a bio-warfare lab in his basement would reveal a lot of criminal activity. And it is certainly true that such searches would reduce the possibility of […]


Destroying the airlines in order to save them

My friend Dave writes about trains vs. planes: On that topic, it’s not hard to make a point that train travel is really not far behind airline travel. For me, it was 45 minutes to the station, only 10 minutes to checkin and board, 7.5 hours to DC in a comfy seat (with 120v power […]


oooh, look an unscientific poll!

Go tell the pollsters that we’ve had enough government sponsored groping. [Update: You may use BugMeNot for a login, or you might want to create a new one for the poll, and feed the bugmenot database.]


Freedom to travel in Ukraine

This information has been confirmed by another listener. She said that in ticket sales offices on Hnatyuk street in Lviv the cashier was extremely friendly to those who were traveling to Kiev, but she did record the passport data into some sort of catalogue. Maidan-INFORM has been stressing, that such practice of registering movement of […]



SteveC, whose comments are broken, says: “wikinews is demoing here. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I can’t wait for wiki… wiki… wikigovernment. Or something. We could all edit the laws. yay!” Me, I want WikiAirlineSchedules.



The CBC reports on documents that the US tried to bury by releasing the day after Thanksgiving, admitting that “…Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain share the suspicion that the international standard set for the electronic passports inadequately protects privacy and security.” These chips can be read from 30 feet away, today. That’s the opinion […]



These women and a good many others, both frequent and occasional travelers, say they are furious about recent changes in airport security that have increased both the number and the intensity of pat-downs at the nation’s 450 commercial airports. And they are not keeping quiet. … Most of the women interviewed said they did not […]


No fly list

A man with an expired passport got onto Air France flight 26 on Saturday, November 19th: Flight 026 from Paris to Washington Dulles International Airport was diverted to Bangor, Maine, after U.S. officials discovered that the man was listed on the government’s no-fly list. The man’s name also was on the State Department’s terrorist watch […]


What I'd like from a social software web site

There are lots of so-called ‘social software’ web sites that help you umm stay in touch with friends, or make new ones or something (Friendster, Tribe, Orkut, etc). Some are more socially oriented, others are more about business. What I’d really like is one that supports my travel habits. I fly to lots of places. […]


TSA ignores the public

As I and others >predicted, the TSA has chosen to run roughshod over our concerns. Interestingly, they claim that we have implicitly consented to the data being used this way. That’s interesting, because in the comments which I sent to them, I explicitly stated that I don’t consent. (Search this document for the words “do […]


Comments on the TSA’s dissing of America

Thanks to Ed Hasbrouck for catching the TSA’s disdainful response to the American people. Quotes are from the TSA’s Notice of Final Order for Secure Flight Test Phase and Response to Public Comments. Because the document is apparently a scan of a printout, I can’t copy text, and thus chose which words I bother to […]


British Petition

There’s a petition to stop ID cards in the U.K. Alas, there’s no where for residents of Clark county, Ohio, to express opinions. (Via Steve at Fractalus.)


No Right To Be Free of Airport Searches?

Ed Hasbrouck writes: For the first time ever, lawyers for the USA Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will appear in court tomorrow in Seattle to try to defend their (still largely secret) procedures for the compilation and use by the TSA, law enforcement agencies, and airlines of “No-Fly” and “selectee” watch lists. … I got word […]


Johnnie Thomas again

On one occasion [Johnnie Thomas] was told that she had graduated to the exalted status labeled, ‘Not allowed to fly.’ She discovered that there was no method available for having ‘her’ name removed from the DNFL; indeed, one person from her local FBI office dismissively told her to hire a lawyer (although ironically, he refused […]


DHS Inspector Report

According to a new report from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, airport screeners still Need Improvement. That will not come as a surprise to anyone who travels, but some of the details, as reported by A.P., are still disturbing: -Screeners aren’t tested on when they should pat down passengers and what the passengers’ […]


TSA Wastes More of Your Money

WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration was lax in overseeing a $1.2 billion contract to install and maintain explosives-detection machines at U.S. airports, resulting in excess profit of about $49 million for Boeing Co., a Department of Homeland Security review found. (From a Wall St Journal article, October 19th. (Sorry, subscriber-only link.)


Secondary Screening: JetBlue FOIAs

Ryan Singel has a long and worthwhile post at Secondary Screening on the JetBlue FOIAs. I have only one thing to add, which is that his closing line somewhat misses the mark: But this issue is not going away as there is at least one report coming out soon that will further complicate the debate […]


Must … extend … grasp!

Each aircraft operation … with a MTOW of more than 12,500 pounds, must conduct a search of the aircraft before departure and screen passengers, crew members and other persons, and all accessible property before boarding in accordance with security standards and procedures approved by TSA. … [Seperately, charter aircraft run as clubs…] These clubs transport […]


$103 Million

To date, the government has wasted over $100 million in a flawed effort to improve airport security by identifying passengers and, well, doing something to the naughty ones. Meanwhile, the reality is that airport screeners continue to miss items like knives, guns and bombs. Meanwhile, there’s lots of good work in computer vision systems, which […]


Unsecure Flight, Because TSA is Asking For It

The ever-energetic Bill Scannell has set up for you to politely but forcefully register your comments with the TSA on what they’re doing to our privacy. Why use Unsecure Flight over the TSA’s site? It’s easier! There is a public record of your comment, the TSA can’t silently discard it. There’s a plethora of […]


OMB, TSA asking for it.

Ed Hasbrouck points out that Public comments are open through Monday, 25 October 2004, on the Secure Flight airline passenger identification, selection, and surveillance system proposed by the USA Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its Office of National Risk Assessment (ONRA). My draft comments are here, and I’d love feedback before sending them. [Update: Fixed […]


RFID passport data won’t be encrypted

Ed Hasbrouck, who in a more perfect world would be paid to be the TSA’s chief privacy officer, writes RFID passport data won’t be encrypted: So an identity thief, using only the data secretly and remotely obtainable from your passport, will be able — without ever having actually seen you or your passport — to […]


John Gilmore, you have a fan

I was flying home recently from a very quick jaunt out to do a customer install. I went to the back of the plane to stretch, and noticed that (horror of horrors) there were people congregating and talking! Fortunately, they were white Americans, so they weren’t scary. Anyway, I got to talking with them, and […]


Perverse Incentives

“It’s O.K. to spend $85 on a hotel, $15 for parking and another $15 for breakfast, but if you spend $90 for a hotel where parking and breakfast are included, you’re over budget,” he said. “And it’s O.K. to drive 400 miles in your own car and to get reimbursed at 34 cents per mile, […]


"A Sign Of The Times?"

A woman said she drove home to San Diego from Denver rather than submit to what she viewed as an intrusive search by airport security screeners. Ava Kingsford, 36, of San Diego said she was flagged down for a pat-down search at Denver International Airport last month as she prepared to board a flight home […]


Spaceship One Lands!

Watching the NASA video, SpaceshipOne just won the X-Prize, having made space twice in under 14 days. Congratulations to Burt Rutan and his whole team.


Secondary Screening

Ryan Singel has a great post on the watch lists, and the keystone-cops fumbling behind the scenes.


Why Is Air Travel So Cheap?

The cost of last minute ticket doesn’t seem to be enough for airlines to break even. How much of this is due to a lingering fear of flying? How much of it is the extra cost to travelers, in inconvenience and hassle, of being bit players on the security stage? As long as a carrier […]


Airport Screening Still Fails Tests

Do current security plans depend on no guns getting onto the planes? I hope not. Covert government tests last November showed that screeners were still missing some knives, guns and explosives carried through airport checkpoints, and the reasons involve equipment, training, procedures and management, according to a report by the inspector general of the Homeland […]


Acceptable ID

Virginia Postrel writes about flying without ID: Coming home today from New York, I was a little more prepared. I still didn’t have “government-issued i.d.,” but at least I knew I was headed for trouble. I got to JFK several hours early. The young security guard wasn’t sure what to do with me and asked […]


Testing Airline Data for …what?

The New York Times reports that “The Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday that it planned to require all airlines to turn over records on every passenger carried domestically in June, so the agency could test a new system to match passenger names against lists of known or suspected terrorists.” The data will vary by airline. […]


CAPPS as Corporate Welfare

I’ve written in the past about how government-validated ID acts as a subsidy to privacy invasion. In the absence of such a card, I can give you whatever name I want, protecting my privacy. With such a card, it becomes easy to invade people’s privacy. Under CAPPS-2, the government would like the airlines to collect […]


Testing Airline Customers

Ed Hasbrouck has another pair of good posts (1, 2) on the “Free Wheelchairs” program. In the first one, he quotes from “Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2005”, H.R. 4567: (2) the underlying error rate of the government and private data bases that will be used both to establish identity and assign a risk […]


Free gropes for travellers

Over at BoingBoing, Cory points to a USA Today story at NewsIsFree about more screening. There seem to be four components: Explosives Detection Secondary screening will now always include nitrate detection swabbing. This is a fine step, but why has it taken 3 years to come in? (In fact, every time I’ve been thrown into […]