Hawaiʻi's Technology Community

TSA's "enhanced screening" - why it hurts Hawaii most

Hawaii is the most isolated population center on Earth. We're 2,400 miles from California, nearly 3,900 miles from Japan and 5,000 miles from China. We are the widest state in the US and the only one to grow coffee.

We are also one of only two states that you must fly to (I can't swim that far.. sorry guys).

We are dependent on tourism.. all of us - because even if we are funded by external dollars, any decline in local industry will impact services and our neighbours - which impacts all of us. Tourism is close to 20% of our economy and employs 150,000 people. That means even a 10% drop in tourism revenues is a 2% drop in our economy... which I realize doesn't sound like much.. but it really is. When those industries are threatened, the state and county will start looking elsewhere to squeeze pennies - which includes reducing high tech industry breaks and infrastructure funding. That squeezes education, healthcare.. all the things we need to attract quality knowledge workers and get us off the tourism teat.

This is a unique vulnerability for Hawaii and we need to act.

Reuter's super-scientific, 100% accurate online poll asked 71,000 people if they would make alternate travel plans to avoid TSA's "intrusive security scans and patdowns".

96% said Yes - they would change their plans. It doesn't get much clearer than that.

The privacy group EPIC has sued DHS over this and many of our legislators are now pushing to get this reviewed. Michael Chertoff, former head of DHS, who pushed for body scanners has landed Rapiscan, one of the manufacturers as a client. Rapiscan produced 211 of the ~385 scanners currently deployed. While the FDA has stated scanners are safe, a group of doctors from UCSF has raised concerns. The Allied Pilots Association, which represents 11,000 commercial pilots has urged its members to boyscott scanners. I could go on.

This is really bad for us, because guess what? If you're thinking of coming to Hawaii for a convention.. too bad. Maybe driving to Florida instead of flying out here for vacation is looking better now? Don't want a $10/hr TSA rentacop feeling up your screaming 3 year old? Hey.. the kids like Disneyworld anyway, right?

And I'm with them, I've already written my senators as well as Hawaiian Airlines to tell them what I think of this. I urge you to review the facts and consider doing the same - if not just for civil liberties, but for the economic impact on our state.

Since 9/11, TSA has not stopped a single terrorist act that I'm aware of - all subsequent events have been intercepted and foiled by people like you and me - ordinary passengers. They are not making us safer, they are stripping our rights and wasting money while reducing tourism/travel revenue. Don't let misinformation and fearmongering cloud the truth. Transportation Security is important - but security theatre is not what we need. We need real security, not just a sense of wellbeing - and if we lose our rights in the process - what's the point? There is an acceptable breakpoint for everything. We've passed it here.

DHS' budget for 2011 is $56.3 billion dollars. Not a single person died from terrorism in the US in 2010 (so far anyway). The CPSC estimates 3,300 residential fires originate in extension cords every year killing 50 people. Their 2011 budget is $107 million dollars - that's nearly 600 times less than DHS'. I'm not saying give CPSC more money - I'm saying we need common sense and some perspective.

Please inform yourself and consider contacting your representatives.

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Comment by Brian on December 1, 2010 at 7:35pm
Chris, are you trying to say they don't screen the special TSA-approved airport water? ;)

I always thought that's why it cost $3/ea.
Comment by Chris Runnells on December 1, 2010 at 7:34pm
I was flying out of Las Vegas headed back to HNL, and had a TSA guy take my *empty* water bottle. Didn't matter that it was empty, it was "too big of a container". Really? What am I going to do with an empty water bottle, except save myself from buying the $5 at the airport. I feel more inconvenienced than safe because of TSA, and like you said, people these days won't stand for anyone trying to pull anything on a plane.
Comment by Brian on December 1, 2010 at 7:32pm
@Cameron that's hilarious re: 'bad touch'.

Body scanners are a waste of resources because short of doing cavity searches you can always get something on if you really want to. In any case the secure zone is a joke because airport employee screenings are not mandated (some do full or random checks).

Hell at HNL there are back gates where you can drive right onto the flight line. Use your imagination.

Goldberg's article from 2008 where he accompanies Bruce Schneier is a nice expose of security theatre. I've even gotten boarding passes from agents without even being ID'd.

I agree with Westley and I really don't care if someone wants to pat me down - I object to the general incompetence of TSA beyond following their absurd policies to the letter. There is no real security, just a vague weave of un-Constitutional policies lacking real avenues for appeal that make the majority of people feel flying is safer.

Apparently TSA is now compiling lists of those who are protesting this - talk about a waste of resources. If they're about true security they would not do this as it has no impact on their effectiveness whatsoever. Just shows how they only care about their own security as an institution.

There is no due process in airports. If your name matches on a list or someone flipped a coin.. bam you're it. 4th amendment is toast.
Comment by Boris Ning on December 1, 2010 at 6:41pm
Look on the bright side, at least they aren't charging you for a baggage handling fee... yet
Comment by Mika Leuck on December 1, 2010 at 4:55pm
@Patrick - I like your Don't Touch My Package site :-) Great idea! @Paul - Yikes.
Comment by Paul Graydon on December 1, 2010 at 4:43pm
Today's revelation is that TSA is now doing checks at long distance bus stops in Florida. Liberty dying a death through 1000 paper cuts.
Comment by Patrick Ahler on December 1, 2010 at 4:41pm
Ha! Just saw this post. At AQUA we got creative and launched a promotion called "Don't Touch my Package" to respond to it: and we're giving away $500. lol - enjoy! But seriously, I really hope it doesn't have the affect Reuters claims it will.
Comment by Cameron Souza on November 30, 2010 at 11:27pm
The TSA really makes it uncomfortable if you opt out of the x-ray. I don't think they were amused when I kept yelling "bad touch", but it was totally worth it. When they asked me, "why did you say that?" I responded, "Thats what my mom taught me to do."
Comment by Paul Graydon on November 23, 2010 at 7:29am
The biggest inherent flaw in the TSA's procedures is that they allow exceptions. Allowing exceptions defeats the whole purpose. e.g. if you're wearing a Hajib you're exempt from the scan or pat down; or how you can carry on 12oz bottles of Saline Solution for your contact lenses which they won't bother to check is actually saline solution.
Comment by Brian on November 22, 2010 at 9:03pm
@Paul Yes Alaska, but I don't think many people actually drive there. Unless you're in a rush it takes about a week to drive up. Likewise you could technically take a ship to Hawaii but hardly anyone does that.. the point really is that these two states are disproportionately influenced by any airtravel snafus. Driving to Vegas from LA is realistic and with a roomy car and company - can even be fun. Short of taking a cruise or owning a boat.. for most people.. coming to Hawaii means flying.

@Westley, Excellent point about the cost of TSA. Personally the civil liberty aspect of it is the most important to me, but I just thought for this blog post that presenting it in an economic light would broaden the audience.

I've read/heard all sorts of ridiculous stories. Personally I've carried through things on the "naughty list" intentionally/unintentionally many times.. I remember around 2002 my sister was stopped and and reprimanded for carrying scissors. Not the big scary metal kind either - I mean the sort you give to a kindergartener that are basically 90% plastic with the remainder some cheap, floppy stamped foil. I could do more damage with a belt.

I mean you don't need knives or guns to hijack a plane. Just train a bunch of people in unarmed combat and buy them all a gold's gym membership for 6 months and you're in business. The only thing that has really improved airline security since 9/11 has been reinforced cockpit doors and the associated revisions in protocols.

My immediate thoughts after 9/11 were "hijackings are dead" simply because despite my usual cynicism I do not think a planeload of passengers will simply sit around anymore - and this has been proven over and over - all of the airline events since have been stopped by passengers. TSA is useless.. I could go on.. but I'll stop ranting here ;)


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