Somewhat old news, but news to me via the Risks Digest:
A UK immigration officer decided to get rid of his wife by putting her on the no-fly list, ensuring that she could not return to the UK from abroad. This worked for three years, until he put in for a promotion and—during the routine background check—someone investigated why his wife was on the no-fly list.
This story comes from the Daily Mail:
The Home Office confirmed today that the officer has been sacked for gross misconduct.
This bit is Kafkaesque:
His wife visited family in Pakistan but when she tried to return to Britain she was not allowed onto the aircraft. Airline and immigration officials refused to explain to her why.
But it’s very interesting that one man was able to meddle with the list. We are so often told about these things that there will be “safeguards”.
In the USA you can walk through the naked scanner or you can choose instead to get your junk touched. In the UK, if you decline to walk through the naked scanner, you get to talk to the police for half an hour and told you can’t get on your flight.
Passengers, who are selected at random for the virtual strip search, were at first allowed to opt for a traditional ‘pat down’ check.
But a government rule change now means anyone who refuses to be scanned is barred from flying.
There does still seem to be a workaround:
Mr Bradshaw [...] now says he will fly from an alternative airport which does not use the technology.
It’s been a while since my roundup of airport security controversy.
A mailing list called RISKS digest links to a letter from scientists at UCSF about the naked backscatter X-ray machines. The authors argue that the machines may be more dangerous than the government thinks, because the energy from the radiation is absorbed only on the surface of the body. Acceptable dosages from normal X-ray machines are calculated based on the fact that the energy is spread throughout the whole volume of the body. So the energy is more concentrated in backscatter machines, and will cause more damage to DNA bonds. Incidentally RISKS is a good read: there are many descriptions of the way all kinds of systems have failed, and you start to notice patterns.
CNET reports on Tammy Banovac, a retired dental surgeon, sometime Playboy model and wheelchair user, who, so annoyed at hear treatment by the TSA, turned up for her next flight in her underwear.
Remember the boy who was strip-searched? The TSA said that it was all a misunderstanding and the boy’s father was happy. Now the author of the video says he was asked by the TSA to delete the video, and that the father was not happy. There’s a written interview and a video interview with Glenn Beck about this, too. Beck says he found out the boy was autistic, which was why the TSA were having so much trouble patting him down, which they were doing because he was wearing a baggy shirt.
The Daily Mail has a couple of stories that suggest women are not particularly enjoying the TSA’s new processes.
Meanwhile, the Norlonto Review notices that pretty girls get groped, diplomats are annoyed and guns still get through security. The Norlonto Review also notices that part of the London congestion charge is being abolished.
But ID is not a requirement for travel: if you say you lost or forgot your ID, they’ll let you on the plane, subject to extra searches. Chris Soghoian writes:
The change of rules seems to be a pretty obvious case of security theater. Real terrorists do not refuse to show ID. They claim to have lost their ID, or they use a fake.
To me this doesn’t seem like security theatre at all. It’s simply that officials don’t like those who refuse to respect their authority. They respond by behaving like bullies. It’s no different to me being told off for holding a camcorder at a security checkpoint, or some bloke being told to change his T-shirt.
I have been putting off commenting on the spate of letter bombs apparently aimed at parts of the road-related revenue system. I have done so, because, to be frank, I really don’t know what I think.
I condemn violence. Of course. I am a libertarian. But who started it? It is the state that has demanded money with menaces for owning a car, driving it on certain roads at certain times and driving it at a speed it regards as too fast.
So, on that basis it seems this guy has got a point.
But, if roads were privately owned, as I very much hope they were, wouldn’t we have much the same system? Road owners would want to know who was using their roads, to be able to charge where and when road space was scarce, and to deter dangerous driving.
And more to the point, wouldn’t road owners, especially in residential and commercial districts end up looking very much like the state? Sure, they might be better organised and there would be more of them, but still…
Where this guy is definitely wrong is on the tactical level. Terrorism can work but only in certain very specific circumstances. It needs to be an area where the state is weak, one which can evoke feelings of guilt. Ulster provides a classic example of this and it is the principal reason why the IRA has been so successful. But this does not apply to motoring. Here the state is absolutely convinced of its virtue.
So, this guy is going to lose and, in doing so, queer the pitch for everybody else. To paraphrase Talleyrand: it is worse than a crime - it is a mistake.
As part of the ongoing investigation into my assault, today I had to go to Baker Street station so that some evidence (a CD-ROM onto which I burned the photo I took of my attacker) could be seized from me, and so that I could give a statement about that evidence. I was told to meet the officer in “the police room”.
None of the London Underground workers at the station knew what I was talking about. I was eventually led through a door and a long hallway to where the British Transport Police have a couple of training rooms and a few offices. In the main office, five policemen were absolutely lovely to me and made sure I was comfortable as I waited for the detective to arrive from Aldgate. Amusingly, one of the officers was clearly having an email debate with someone else in the BTP, and read his reply aloud to the other men so that they could tell him he was being too harsh. “I liked the last two words,” one remarked, referring to the “kind regards” sign-off. Another two officers discussed what a shambles OASIS, the police’s central IT system, is. When I received a call on my mobile, I wandered into another office to take it; nobody tried to stop me. On the desk, there were about a dozen very nice iMate JAMs, a spiffy web-enabled phone/PDA which I owned myself (until I got tired of being connected all the time).
Eventually, the detective from Aldgate found me, and led me down another long, winding hallway, through many doors, up one floor, down another series of very smoky hallways, and into a small room. He took the evidence from me, took my statement, and the whole process lasted about half an hour. “I can’t believe this is all still done on paper,” I said to him as he wrote down my name, address, phone number, and all the other details they already had for me on yet another set of forms. “Yeah, well,” he said, smiling weakly.
What really surprised me was just how much more there is to a London Underground station like Baker Street than one would ever guess from rushing along its platforms and wandering around the halls. It was a little disconcerting, too, to note how many more cops were deep in the labyrinth and offices, immersed in bureaucracy and paper-pushing, than were visible in the station. Am I being unfair?
Brian blogged here about what two thugs did to me on the Underground ten days ago. Well, I’m happy to report that British Transport Police think they’re going to catch them soon. I was given a “personal guarantee” by a very sharp detective today that they would have these scumbags behind bars by the time I return from a quick trip to New York next week.
I was told by the officers who took my statement on the day of the attack that I was much better off in the hands of the BTP than I would be with London’s Metropolitan Police. If they catch these two that quickly, I guess they will have been right.
The anti-terror ban on carrying liquids onto flights is to be relaxed from next week - but will lead to more confusion and delays at airports, security experts have warned.Jackie D (to whom thanks for the link) is also not happy.