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Well, not on the same subject. But I made a series of comments elsewhere that are worth consolidating into a blog post. Enjoy!


Eric Ross @110:

What I have said, many times now, is that you and others have been inconsistent by expressing outrage over SH’s proposed anti-profiling (i.e. giving less scrutiny to the very old and very young, in particular), but expressing no outrage as TSA has been doing exactly that for about 2 years now.

There’s no inconsistency, because the TSA doesn’t do “anti-profiling”.

As the Obama administration prepares to announce new curbs on racial profiling by federal law enforcement, government officials said Friday that many officers and agents at the Department of Homeland Security will still be allowed to use the controversial practice, including while they screen airline passengers and guard the country’s southwestern border.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is expected early next week to detail long-awaited revisions in the Justice Department’s rules for racial profiling, banning it from national security cases for the first time. The changes­ will also expand the definition of profiling to prevent FBI agents from considering factors such as religion and national origin when opening cases­, officials said.

But after sharp disagreements among top officials, the administration will exempt a broad swath of DHS, namely the Transportation Security Administration and key parts of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to law enforcement officials.

The ACLU is even suing them to either force a scientific justification or get them to stop profiling.

Guess they should have tried “anti-profiling” instead.


Eric Ross @98:

As I said, if your response references brown skin, the efficacy of the TSA generally (I’m looking at you, Al Dente), etc., you are simply not responding to the point I’m making.

Er, the TSA aren’t all that effective. Take that PreCheck program you keep crowing about.

Widely available smartphone applications can scan airline boarding passes to see if passengers are scheduled for additional screening by the Transportation Security Administration, which a security expert flags as a flaw in the system.

The flaw involves PreCheck passengers, who are typically allowed to keep their shoes and belts on, and their laptops and small containers of liquids in their bags at checkpoints.

By scanning the bar code on a boarding pass printed up to 24 hours before a flight, passengers can see whether they qualify for PreCheck’s expedited screening or will face a more intrusive, regular screening.

There’s apparently no way to tamper with the codes, as they’re cryptographically signed, but A) you’re one private key leak away from doing so, and B) now you’ve got a pretty good idea of whether or not you’ll face extra scrutiny before you hit the airport, plus C) why the hell didn’t they encrypt the code on top of signing it?!

Also, remember those TSA-approved locks? The ones they promised would allow the government to check your bags, but not criminals? I hope you’re sitting down, because

Unfortunately for everyone, a TSA agent and the Washington Post revealed the secret. All it takes to duplicate a physical key is a photograph, since it is the pattern of the teeth, not the key itself, that tells you how to open the lock. So by simply including a pretty picture of the complete spread of TSA keys in the Washington Post’s paean to the TSA, the Washington Post enabled anyone to make their own TSA keys.

Someone’s already made 3D printable versions and posted them publicly, so in a few hours you could recreate the entire master set of TSA keys.


Speaking of PreCheck, it’s a bit of a joke.

The Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program is desperate for customers after three years of operation. TSA is hiring private contractors to launch a massive sign-up effort. It said recently it will use them to recruit and screen millions of people into trusted-traveler status. […]

Currently 598,184 people are enrolled in PreCheck and more than 1.3 million more have PreCheck clearance through Global Entry, the Customs and Border Protection trusted-traveler program. TSA needs millions more enrolled to make sure PreCheck lines are fully used.

And you can’t have empty lines, because then people would complain. So

the agency directs passengers considered low risk, often based on age, sex and destination, into PreCheck lanes, hoping that a taste of expedited screening will prompt them to pay the $85 application fee to enroll for five years. […]

Lots of travelers complain they enrolled in PreCheck but rarely get through airport checkpoints more quickly. At the same time, huge numbers of travelers who never signed up get routed into PreCheck lanes. At peak business-travel hours, the PreCheck lines can back up longer than the regular screening lines. […]

On average, about 45% of travelers get some form of expedited screening, including instances like less-intrusive scanning of elderly travelers in non-PreCheck lanes.

TSA says it has heard the complaints and has reduced the number of non-PreCheck passengers it runs into PreCheck lanes by 25%.

So as long as you show up during congested times and don’t rank high in their profiling system (the details of which have been leaked), you’ve got a decent chance of waltzing through security.


And to put a cherry on top, from that article about the leak:

In 2013, the Government Accountability Office found that there was no evidence to back up the idea that “behavioral indicators … can be used to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security.” After analyzing hundreds of scientific studies, the GAO concluded that “the human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance.”

The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security found in 2013 that TSA had failed to evaluate SPOT, and “cannot ensure that passengers at United States airports are screened objectively, show that the program is cost-effective, or reasonably justify the program’s expansion.” […]

One former Behavior Detection Officer manager, who asked not to be identified, said that SPOT indicators are used by law enforcement to justify pulling aside anyone officers find suspicious, rather than acting as an actual checklist for specific indicators. “The SPOT sheet was designed in such a way that virtually every passenger will exhibit multiple ‘behaviors’ that can be assigned a SPOT sheet value,” the former manager said.

The signs of deception and fear “are ridiculous,” the source continued. “These are just ‘catch all’ behaviors to justify BDO interaction with a passenger. A license to harass.”

So we have no science to back up the TSA’s profiling program, and every reason to think that despite never mentioning race it’ll be used to racially profile. If Eric Ross is correct in asserting the TSA is doing exactly what Sam Harris suggests, he’s admitted Harris is relying on rank pseudoscience to promote prejudice.

 

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