Category Archives: Security Theater

CEI Podcast for June 24, 2014: TSA Still Flouting the Law on Body Scanners

Marc Scribner notes the one-year anniversary of a comment period deadline on the TSA’s use of body scanners in airports, as was ordered by a federal court in July 2011. The agency is still in violation of federal law and the court’s order. Click here to listen.

The NSA Might Be Able to Search Your Emails…

…but it claims to lack the technology to search its own employees’ emails in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from a journalist.

CEI Podcast for July 18, 2013: The NSA Gets Sued

Have a listen here.

In the wake of the NSA’s spying scandal, several groups are filing a lawsuit challenging the NSA’s actions as unconstitutional. Associate Director of Technology Studies Ryan Radia shares many of the suit’s criticisms of the NSA, and adds a few of his own.


Mission Creep

The TSA is now searching parked cars at airports.

CEI Podcast for June 26, 2013: TSA Full-Body Scanner Transparency

Full Body Scanner
Have a listen here.

CEI, along with former American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall, submitted formal comments to the TSA regarding its proposed rule for using full-body scanners in airports. Fellow in Land-use and Transportation Studies Marc Scribner discusses the TSA’s lack of transparency and the scanners’ ineffectiveness in deterring terrorism.

Literally True

Politico: Obama: I’m Not Cheney

Though they are very distant cousins, Barack Obama and Dick Cheney are different individuals. Unfortunately, their preferred privacy and national security policies are similar.

This is why Obama felt compelled to make a public statement that he is not, in fact, the former vice president. If you are forced to say something to that effect for PR reasons, it’s a good indication that you really are being Dick Cheney, at least regarding certain illiberal policies.

This is sad to see. When Obama was elected, I was optimistic that he would roll back some of Bush and Cheney’s post-9/11 excesses regarding civil liberties and privacy violations, security theater, and wars abroad. The last five years have proven me very wrong. Obama’s experience makes me skeptical that the next president, even if he or she campaigns as a civil libertarian, will grow into the office in a more healthy way, regardless of party.

The tragedy of 9/11, contrary to my thoughts at the time, has turned out to be a transformative event in the relationship between government and citizen. That transformation has been almost entirely negative. Despite this post’s unrelenting pessimism, I remain confident that this course will right itself someday. Transparency, and not just of the Edward Snowden variety, is an important first step in that long process.

NSA: America’s Computer Technicians

Courtesy of some Internet person with a healthy sense of humor, it turns out that the NSA might be able to help you with your computer troubles.

NSA First World Problem

Presented without Comment

Politico: George W. Bush’s NSA director Michael Hayden praises Obama

CEI Podcast for March 28, 2013: The TSA’s Illegal Body Scanners

tsa body scanner
Have a listen here.

The TSA’s controversial full-body scanners were implemented illegally, since the TSA never put them through the required comment-and-review rulemaking process. Despite a court order, the TSA is still dragging its feet on complying with the law. Fellow in Land-use and Transportation Studies Marc Scribner has the latest developments in the case.

TSA to Remove Scanners, Except Not

The good news is that the TSA is getting rid of its backscatter full-body scanners. The bad news is it will be replacing them with millimeter-length full-body scanners, which are similarly ineffective (would-be bombers can simply flatten their explosives into a pancake shape on their torso and go through undetected).

In other news, the TSA continues to hire people like Thomas Harkins. A former priest, Harkins was defrocked for sexually abusing two schoolgirls. He then went to work for the TSA. Fortunately, thanks to a promotion some years back, he is no longer patting down passengers.