Posts Tagged ‘Transportation Security Administration’

Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition proposes a Rapid Response Network

Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 11:03 am by

The Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition (MCCRC) held a public forum on April 18 to discuss what effect “The War on Terror” has had on free expression and grassroots political organizing in Maryland and across the United States since 9/11.  The forum featured four speakers whose presentations discussed a number of demonstrations of federal, state and local surveillance and their disruption of peaceful activism.  The forum was opened by Kit Bonson, who explained the MCCRC’s desperate formation, saying:

The Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition (MCCRC) started because in the fall of 2010, 7 activists in Minneapolis and Chicago awoke one morning to find that their houses were being raided by the FBI. Boxes and boxes of their possessions were confiscated, including computers, papers, and family photos. Although they were never charged with any crime, they were called to testify in front of a Grand Jury.

In response, activists here in our area, as well as in cities around the country, came together to protest the use of the FBI and the Grand Jury process to harass and intimidate movement organizers. Basically, we wanted to stand in solidarity with activists who had not committed crimes or advocated anything other than nonviolence action. It was from these events that MCCRC was founded.

Forum Speakers

Saqib Ali, formerly a Maryland state legislator,  is now the Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Maryland chapter (CAIR-MD).  Ali spoke about the overwhelming surveillance of Muslim-American communities throughout the United States, describing the three major issues facing these communities as the “No Fly” list; the FBI’s infiltration of mosques and the growing presence of FBI informants in mosques; and the near-constant surveillance of Muslim communities.  Ali explained that the “No Fly” list prohibits many Muslim-Americans from travel back and forth between the United States and countries abroad where family members may still be located.  Ali specifically noted that the Transport Security Administration (TSA) compiles their “No Fly” list fairly arbitrarily, and lacks any legal recourse; not only  is the reason for being on a “No Fly” list murky at best, but it becomes nearly impossible to remove oneself from that list.


Ali also discussed the FBI infiltration of mosques, both as a means to surveil Muslim community worshiping therein, as well as to persuade mosque members towards terrorist action and subsequently stage their arrests.  He also discussed the more local development of an NYPD “Demographics” Unit, which singled out Muslim community centers of all kinds throughout New York and New Jersey for surveillance.  He described the “Demographics” Unit as a “wide, indiscriminate dragnet of Muslim everyday things: barber shops, bookstores…”

Sue Udry, the Executive Director of the Defending Dissent Foundation (DDF), broadened the discussion beyond the Muslim-American community to discuss the many different examples of legitimate activism being disproportionately targeted by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.  She specifically mentioned the “Ag Gag laws,” which aim at preventing whistleblowers from exposing any wrongdoing within agricultural operations.  Within these Ag Gag laws is the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) which Udry and DDF describe as:


Demonstration condemns random bag searches on MBTA

Friday, February 8, 2013 at 11:29 am by

mbta blue line the very first mbta six car blue line train in passenger service right before seven o clock  during the morning rush hour commute 9/15/08 went into passenger service allowing more room and less crowdingOn Saturday, February 2, a new civic group called “Defend the 4th” protested against “random” bag searches on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Two hundred people marched from different stops on the MBTA system and joined together on the Boston Common. This group of people was a large coalition including political, religious, and other civic groups.

Since 2006, the Transportation Security Administration has been searching bags on the MBTA. The process is that the TSA will choose one out of five individuals to have their bags searched. The TSA claims that this system is used due to a federal law requiring that suspicion-less searches must be conducted at random. However, the TSA has been targeting areas that have large populations of people of color, such as the Dudley Square T station. If an individual does not consent to a search, they are refused admittance to that particular entrance, but can go to another station or entrance. Clearly, if the TSA is trying to keep any dangerous materials or substances from getting into the transportation system, allowing an individual to enter elsewhere would not be effective. Also, TSA workers are not present at MBTA stations on the weekends.

However, this most upsetting facet of this case is how far these “random” searches expand the authority of the TSA over the lives of citizens that have done nothing to warrant a search. Also, these new policies require expanding budgets as well. There have been no new threats to passenger safety known at this time to warrant the TSA’s involvement, or the need for searches at MBTA stops generally. Without probably cause for the search, is there any way to be sure they are taking place at random? It hardly seems that this system is efficient or random in nature.

New technology threatens civil liberties

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 6:28 pm by

Body ScannersOver the past week, a number of law enforcement agencies have announced plans to expand their use of surveillance technologies. While claiming to offer new efficiency and ensure public safety, they each raise serious civil rights and liberties concerns.

In New York City, the NYPD announced it will begin testing a machine that detects radiation emitted by the human body, revealing items within a person’s clothing.  The NYPD claims that the machine will be used to detect concealed weapons from a distance, which would presumably enhance public safety–but has not announced any legal requirements limiting its use, enabling it to be used to virtually search unwitting pedestrians without the basis for suspicion required by our Constitution.

The Supreme Court has already prohibited the use of analogous devices, without a warrant, that detect heat signatures emitted from homes. But the law will not likely deter the NYPD from pursuing its plans.

It was also recently announced that devices used by the Transportation Safety Authority (TSA) for body scans at airports would be redeployed to law enforcement and military applications.  The machines, which use “backscatter” x-ray technology to create an outline of a passenger’s body underneath of their clothes, were the subject of widespread criticism and sustained controversy, culminating in a lawsuit by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Interestingly, the machines being transferred are being pulled from service because their manufacturer’s failure to implement congressionally required privacy software that masks and anonymizes the detailed outlines of the scanned persons body. The unmodified machines will now be used against constituencies whose objections to invasions of privacy and exposure to radiation don’t wield the same political power as airline passengers.


Supreme Court rejects challenge to the TSA

Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 4:33 pm by

US Supreme Court by nightIn their new term that began this month, the Supreme Court has rejected a Michigan man’s fourth amendment challenge to the Transportation Security

Administration’s (TSA) use of full-body scanners and individual pat-downs. Implemented in late 2010, such new security policies at airports have met with considerable resistance due to their intrusive and invasive nature. While passengers are allowed to opt-out of these high-imaging technological searches, those individuals must consent to an enhanced full body pat-down in order to pass through the security checkpoint.

This legal challenge argues that such searches are unconstitutional under the fourth amendment, as TSA agents necessarily lack the warrants and probable cause that may justify their intrusive actions. The TSA does not reasonable belief that the passenger in question may be engaging in or planning illegal activity, and does not have rational justification for such searches.

In 2010, Jonathan Corbett filed suit with the district court in defending his claim, and has represented himself in the both the suit and subsequent appeals. The plaintiff’s challenge was first dismissed by the Florida circuit court, whose ruling was later upheld by the 11th circuit court of appeals. Moreover, in their rejection of the suit, the Supreme Court did not comment on their decision in declining Corbett’s challenge.

Despite these setbacks, Corbett has expressed optimism in spite of the court’s denial of his appeal, stating that:

“The good news is that the fight is not over.”

DC Circuit extends TSA deadline

Monday, October 8, 2012 at 9:17 am by

Airport SecurityIn July 2011, the DC Circuit determined that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had violated federal law in 2009 through its adoption of full-body scanners, and ordered the agency to hold a public notice-and-comment concerning the issue. Essentially, a public notice-and-comment requirement would compel the TSA to hold public hearings and consider public sentiment concerning these changes in airport security.

Unfortunately, a year after the initial decision, the TSA had failed to comply with any provisions of the court’s mandate. In response to the TSA’s inactivity, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) obtained and filed a writ of mandamus, which would obligate the federal agency to comply with the D.C. Circuit’s mandate within 60 days. If the TSA failed to fulfill the requirements within the allotted time, the agency would be penalized and forced to suspend its program until further action is taken.

Recently, however, the DC Circuit has denied this writ, and stated that the TSA may “finalize documents” concerning the regulation of full-body scanners until February 2013.

Responding to EPIC’s request, the court indicated that:

“…the process of finalizing the AIT Rulemaking documents… is expected to be complete by or before the end of February 2013. Accordingly, [this court expects] that the [rulemaking documents] will be published before the end of March 2013.”

In this instance, the court’s decision seems to directly contradict its previous ruling in 2011, when the DC Circuit ordered the TSA to “promptly” begin the court-mandated procedures. However, the court did not entirely disregard the time sensitivity of the issue, and has emphasized an official deadline of March 2013 as the final date that the TSA may begin the court-mandated rulemaking process. If the TSA fails to comply again by 2013, it is highly likely that the DC Circuit court will be more willing to enforce its decision with punitive force.

News Digest 08/17/12

Friday, August 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC’s August Newsletter

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 3:10 pm by


Constitution in Crisis

August 2012, Vol. 13, No. 8

TSA to employ new surveillance technology developed with CIA help


BORDC in the news

BORDC seeks interns for fall 2012

BORDC seeks Communications & Development Assistant

Legal Fellows join BORDC, expanding communications and organizing capacity

Read the latest news & analysis from the People’s Blog for the Constitution

Grassroots organizers explain their passion for civil liberties

Grassroots News

Patriot Award: Denisa Jashari

Grassroots resistance stops San Francisco Mayor’s proposed stop & frisk plan

Bay Area mobilizes to resist indefinite detention under NDAA & AUMF

Local coalition launches civil rights campaign in Charlotte, NC

Connecticut mobilizes to challenge hate crimes and repression of dissent

Law and Policy

Senate confirms nominees to long dormant Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board

NSA seeking new powers, despite challenges from whistleblowers and Congress

Congress attempts overdue oversight of extrajudicial assassination

NYPD expands unconstitutional surveillance & monitoring

Chicago City Council approves police torture settlement

New Resources and Opportunities

Book review: Presidents and Civil Liberties from Wilson to Obama: A Story of Poor Custodians by Samuel Walker

Share your feedback to bring BORDC to a broader base

August 2012: promote civil liberties during the congressional recess


And You Thought Body Scanners Were Bad…

Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 6:56 am by

Over the past decade, we have come to accept increasingly invasive security measures as the norm at our nation’s airports; yet as technological advancements continue to outpace public condemnation, progressively more alarming measures are poised to take  hold. The latest such incarnation comes in the form of laser scanners, expected to reach airports nationwide as early as 2013.

Capable of surveying travelers at a molecular level from over 160-feet-away, these lasers are soon to succeed full body scanners as the most insidious security measure on the books. Operating in real time, the Picosecond Programmable Laser can determine everything about you–from adrenaline levels in your body to traces of gun powder or drugs on a person’s clothes–without an agent ever touching you..

And while proponents of the system herald it as a less invasive alternative to pat-downs and strip searches, the unknowns of such a powerful device draw grave concerns.


News Digest 6/13/12

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

6/13, PostStar, NYC City Council members propose police oversight

6/13, Michael Schmidt, New York Times, U.S. Security Expands Presence at Foreign Airports

6/12, Michael Stone,, Wyden protects privacy – blocks FISA surveillance law

6/12, CNN, Sen. Paul says no to domestic drones

6/11, Pete Kasperowicz, The Hill, House members attempt to curb president’s power of indefinite detention

6/11, Michael Tarm, Associated Press, States in Unchartered Waters Using Own Terror Laws

News Digest 4/23/12

Monday, April 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm by