Monday, October 26, 2015

Another court order the TSA will ignore

Everyone keeps sending me links to this story, but I saw it when it first came out last week and decided not to write about it because it isn't news. It's the same old same old. I can't see how it means anything significant in our fight against the TSA.

John Whitehead's Rutherford Institute, which fights for civil liberties, touted the story in an email last week headlined, "Victory!" I'm on their mailing list, so I saw the message as soon as it came in. When I read the text, any initial frisson of triumph immediately fizzled. Victory? Really? 

The story is this: an appeals court has ruled that the TSA must "move forward" with establishing rules on the use of the strip-search scanners. But as we reported years ago, the TSA has ignored court orders before. Why should this one be any different?

(And what does that mean anyway, moving forward on establishing rules? The TSA can make up whatever rules they want -- that's a victory? Here's one that's right up their alley: "You must stand in a position of surrender in our worthless scanners, getting a virtual strip-search, and even then we might grope you when you get out, because we already know that those scanners have a 54% false-positive rate. If you don't acquiesce, you can't fly. There. You've been forewarned.")

From my post in March of 2013:
Until now, the TSA has defied not only Congress, but also the courts, by not holding a public comment period on the scanners. The first court order was handed down on July 15, 2011. The TSA ignored it. 
Then, over a year later, the court handed down another order: open the public comment period by the end of March 2013.
So the TSA was finally forced to take public comments -- thousands of them, as it turned out -- on the scanners and on TSA policies. The agency was supposed to produce a report on those comments. Yet here we are, over two years later, and, surprise surprise, the TSA still hasn't produced that report.

Look at the righthand side of this page, of any page at TSA News, and you'll see this:
*2015 UPDATE: Still no word from TSA on public comments* The public comment period on the TSA's electronic strip-search scanners and "pat-downs" closed on June 25, 2013. That public comment period had been ordered by the courts, an order the TSA ignored for almost two years before it finally complied. The agency must issue a report on the many thousands (or more?) of comments it received. Yet here it is 2015 and still no report. If the TSA ever complies with the requirement to issue that report, we'll let you know.
So forgive me if I don't get all excited about this "victory." Unlike Voltaire's Candide, and, apparently, millions of Americans, I don't think all is for the best in this the best of all possible worlds.