Posts Tagged ‘security’

One of the blogs I read for fun is the Comics Curmudgeon, whose author, Josh Fruhlinger, has a love/hate relationship with the daily funnies (or not-so-funnies). Today, Mary Worth — a comic I shunned as boring in my childhood, only later to realize that it is boring for adults, too — takes on airport security and New York City air traffic congestion:

Would Mary be in favor of congestion pricing, I wonder?


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Welcome, new readers! For more blogging on aviation politics, click here.

First of all, big props to Obama and his campaign team for actually having a transportation agenda [PDF]. The McCain campaign devotes a whole section to manned space exploration but can’t spare a word for aviation. So, to Obama, an A for effort.

Now let’s dig into the plan:

As our society becomes more mobile and interconnected, the need for 21st-century transportation networks has never been greater. However, too many of our nation’s railways, highways, bridges, airports, and neighborhood streets are slowly decaying due to lack of investment and strategic long-term planning. Barack Obama believes that America’s long-term competitiveness depends on the stability of our critical infrastructure. As president, Obama will make strengthening our transportation systems, including our roads and bridges, a top priority.

Barack Obama believes that it is critically important for the United States to rebuild its national transportation infrastructure — its highways, bridges, roads, ports, air, and train systems — to strengthen user safety, bolster our long-term competitiveness and ensure our economy continues to grow. Investing in national infrastructure is especially important in our efforts to bolster our homeland security to meet international terrorism and natural disaster threats. . . .  Barack Obama will address the infrastructure challenge by creating a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to expand and enhance, not supplant, existing federal transportation investments. This independent entity will be directed to invest in our nation’s most challenging transportation infrastructure needs. The Bank will receive an infusion of federal money, $60 billion over 10 years, to provide financing to transportation infrastructure projects across the nation.

Worthy goals. One of the core functions of government is to provide for infrastructure development and maintenance. How will this money be allocated? By DOT, or by Congress? Political realities mandate, for example, that Airport Improvement Fund monies go disproportionately to airports that do not need them as much as the highly trafficked and congested commercial hubs. How it gets allocated is key. (more…)

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Stories like this — “A laptop containing the unencrypted security data for 33,000 travelers using the Clear system was stolen at San Francisco International Airport on July 26, according to CBS5 Television” — are pretty depressing. TSA is ineffective, and the contractors hired to make up for problems caused by TSA — that is, Clear — turn out to be ineffective too. Passengers who paid to avoid security problems get to enjoy more. Way to go.

We wouldn’t need to have passengers’ unencrypted personal information in unattended laptops if we had a security agency that focused on actual threats, not on equal-opportunity harassment for the sake of feeling better about flying.

“Clear” Air-Travel Pass Data Stolen From SFO [Slashdot via Megan McArdle]

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The Guardian reports that the U.S. government is circulating a memo and beginning negotiations in Europe to intensify security measures:

  • Airlines would be required to give passengers’ personal data to the Transportation Security Administration even for flights merely overflying the United States.
  • Travelers from countries in Europe for which the United States waives visas would be required to apply permission from the TSA to enter the country before purchasing a ticket.
  • Airlines would be required to provide the TSA with personal information of those accompanying travelers past security checkpoints but not actually traveling to the U.S.
  • Noncompliant countries would lose their visa waivers.

If this turns out to be accurate — I cannot entirely trust the Guardian‘s slant — then let me be the first to say: What. Is. The. TSA. Thinking?!

First, waived visa requirements allow massively valuable financial, business, political, educational, and cultural interchanges. If the U.S. slaps visa requirements on a noncompliant country, retaliation is likely. One might say that the other country stands to lose more, but the United States is the country with the low-value currency. More and more, we are a tourist destination for Europeans, and imposing visa restrictions will stanch that valuable flow. Beyond that, it constitutes a giant middle finger to a lot of countries that are — if not our best friends — security allies and trade partners. Why is the TSA conducting foreign policy?

Second, who trusts the TSA to administer programs like this? This is the agency that lost a hard drive with the personal info of 100,000 employees. This is the agency whose U.S. passenger database has been held up by Congress pending confirmation that it will have adequate privacy protections. The TSA’s track record will not reassure our European allies nervous about privacy concerns.

I’ll be checking for more news reports to verify the Guardian story and will update here as the situation warrants.

Bush orders clampdown on flights to US [Guardian]

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Irwin Stelzer, a very intelligent commentator on economic issues, indulges too much air rage in his latest column. After running through a laundry list of typical air travel complaints, he reveals that his understanding of air traffic control funding, for example, is shaky:

Now consider the world’s airlines’ roles in all of this. They have by and large acted as if their customers’ experience in airports is none of their concern. . . . Unless, of course, he or she is sitting on the tarmac for a few hours, in which case the airlines are guessing that their customers are not completely up-to-date on the carriers’ reluctance to fund a new air-traffic control system that might eliminate such annoyances.

Well, the airlines are actually trying to set up a “new” system, which has its own merits but no hope of alleviating such annoyances in the next few years. They want general aviation to bear a greater share of the ATC funding burden. The airlines are indeed “reluctant” to continue funding an air traffic control system that cannot accommodate the increasing demand for air travel. The key to relieving congestion is to charge higher prices at the (less than ten) crowded hub airports where such congestion occurs. Of course, this will increase fares, but it’s a rational way to allocate seats on flights at premium times of day–times when Mr. Stelzer presumably prefers to fly. (more…)

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TSA screeners had failure rates of up to 75 percent in finding bomb components, according to a classified report leaked to USA Today. “Screeners at Los Angeles International Airport missed about 75% of simulated explosives and bomb parts that Transportation Security Administration testers hid under their clothes or in carry-on bags at checkpoints, the TSA report shows.”

As usual, the excuses are hilarious: “The failure rates at Los Angeles and Chicago are ‘somewhat misleading’ because they don’t reflect screeners’ improved ability to find bombs, [spokeswoman] Howe said.”

Not hilarious at all is the unconscionable failure to improve security at great taxpayer expense and with far more personal intrusion and annoyance. “Tests earlier in 2002 showed screeners missing 60% of fake bombs. In the late 1990s, tests showed that screeners missed about 40% of fake bombs, according to a separate report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.”

It’s not as if this is actually “news.” TSA’s had its chance. Let’s call it a day.

Most fake bombs missed by screeners: 75% not detected at LAX; 60% at O’Hare [USA Today]

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After a fifteen-year-old Russian boy survived a two-hour flight at high altitude as a stowaway inside the wheel well of a Boeing 737, his story received some attention. He stowed away at the Perm Airport by sneaking through a hole in the airport fence. Everyone wondered how a modern airport could allow such a major lapse–how did the boy get from the fence to the wheel well without being stopped? Well, it looks like the lapse continues. Six days later, two newspaper reporters found the hole intact, entered the secured area, and in poorly translated English:

When the correspondents had reached the runway, no one stopped to ask them what they were doing at a closed object. . . . In the middle of the day, when all of the airport’s services were working, two men (correspondents) freely accessed a plane standing in front of the airdrome control point and looked into the plane’s right wing. Finally, one of the technicians noticed some strangers near the plane, looked at them, and . . . went on working.

Well, da, that sure inspires confidence in the safety of Russian aviation. This is surely not what they wanted on the day after the unveiling of the Sukhoi SuperJet 100.

Experiment: Zero Security of Russian Airports [Russia-InfoCentre]

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Airport security restrictions apparently apply to vials of holy water received from Roman Catholic pilgrimage sites, the AP reports. Several pilgrims returning to Rome from Our Lady of Lourdes in France had their holy water confiscated if it was in bottles that exceeded EU airline safety limits. The travelers were flying on the just-launched, Vatican-backed, charter service of Mistral Air. The airline, perhaps blessed with the gift of prophecy, offered a travel-size bottle of Lourdes holy water to each passenger once on board.

Holy water seized from fliers at Lourdes airport [AP, via Today in the Sky]

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At his excellent travel blog, Mark Ashley answers a question about the best way to connect to flights to Europe. His suggestions are good: avoid Heathrow, make no connections after arriving on an overnight flight, and avoid making connections in the United States on the return trip. This, he says, is because of more stringent U.S. homeland security requirements. With flights at record capacities, luggage to be claimed after immigration and rechecked after customs, and foreign nationals required to be fingerprinted and photographed, passengers can wait for hours in line at major international hubs and miss their connecting flights. (more…)

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From Aero-News.Net:

The Transportation Security Administration thinks it has found the answer to some of the agency’s biggest problems . . . including its failure to retain personnel, persistent equipment troubles, missing hard drives containing personal data, and security breaches.

Why, new uniforms, of course.

Make sure those deck chairs are arranged neatly, folks. . . .

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