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Former TSA Officer Tells of ‘Pained Relationship with Government Security’

By Jason Edward Harrington
The Week

My pained relationship with government security started in 2007. I needed a job to help pay my way through college in Chicago, and the Transportation Security Administration’s callback, for a job as a security officer at O’Hare International Airport, was the first one I received. It was just a temporary thing, I told myself — side income for a year or two as I worked toward a degree in creative writing. It wasn’t like a recession would come along and lock me into the job or anything.

I hated it from the beginning. It was a job that had me patting down the crotches of children, the elderly, and even infants as part of the post-9/11 airport security show. I confiscated jars of homemade apple butter on the pretense that they could pose threats to national security. I was even required to confiscate nail clippers from airline pilots — the implied logic being that pilots could use the nail clippers to hijack the very planes they were flying.

Once, in 2008, I had to confiscate a bottle of alcohol from a group of Marines coming home from Afghanistan. It was celebration champagne intended for one of the men in the group — a young, decorated soldier. He was in a wheelchair, both legs lost to an I.E.D., and it fell to me to tell this kid who would never walk again that his homecoming champagne had to be taken away in the name of national security.

I quickly discovered I was working for an agency whose morale was among the lowest in the U.S. government. In private, most TSA officers I talked to told me they felt the agency’s day-to-day operations represented an abuse of public trust and funds.

Until 2010 (just after the TSA standard operating procedure manual was accidentally leaked to the public), all TSA officers worked with a secret list that many of us taped to the back of our TSA badges for easy reference: the Selectee Passport List. It consisted of 12 nations that automatically triggered enhanced passenger screening. The training department drilled us on the selectee countries so regularly that I had memorized them, like a little poem:

Syria, Algeria, Afghanistan
Iraq, Iran, Yemen
and Cuba,
Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan
People’s Republic of North Korea

People holding passports from the selectee countries were automatically pulled aside for full-body pat downs and had their luggage examined with a fine-toothed comb. The selectee list was purely political, of course, with diplomacy playing its role as always: There was no Saudi Arabia or Pakistan on a list of states historically known to harbor, aid, and abet terrorists. Besides, my co-workers at the airport didn’t know Algeria from a medical condition, we rarely came across Cubanos, and no one’s ever seen a North Korean passport that didn’t include the words “Kim Jong.” So it was mostly the Middle Easterners who got the special screening.

Most of us knew the directives were questionable, but orders were orders. And in practice, officers with common sense were able to cut corners on the most absurd rules, provided supervisors or managers weren’t looking.

Then a man tried to destroy a plane with an underwear bomb, and everything changed.

To read more click here.

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Weekend Series on Crime: The Real Goodfella, Henry Hill

httpv://youtu.be/Sjfe5hrsPDs

httpv://youtu.be/bPnk9MhnEpY

Denver Post: Justice Department Must End Crusade Against Reporters

By Denver Post 
Editorial Board

All of the conciliatory talk from the Justice Department about leaving journalists out of its war on leaks appears to be just that — talk.

That’s the only logical answer to the question of why New York Times reporter James Risen was on the witness stand in federal court Monday, being asked about confidential sources and stories.

The feds are attempting to prosecute Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of giving Risen classified information about a botched operation involving Iran and its nuclear program.

The government’s attempt to pressure Risen is far from the only episode in which the administration has tried to get at those suspected of revealing sensitive information through journalists.

To read more click here.

Republicans Use Paris Terror Attack to Go After Obama’s Immigration Plan

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

Not even six hours passed before politicians began injecting the terrorist attack in Paris into budget debates. 

CNN reports that Republicans are trying to add ammunition to their upcoming budgetary battle with Democrats by claiming President Obama’s new immigration policies hamper Homeland Security’s fight against terrorism.

Republicans are expected to unveil their bill Friday.

President Obama has threatened to veto any efforts by Republicans to limit his immigration reforms.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Republicans may resort to a Homeland Security funding bill.

“There are terrorists around the world who are intent on killing Americans and other freedom loving individuals around the country. I believe that the President’s executive action with regard to immigration are outside of the Constitution and outside of his power and I believe that we can deal with that issue in the Department of Homeland Security bill without jeopardizing the security of our country.”

Other Stories of Interest


Alleged Eco-Terrorist Freed After 7 Years in Prison Because FBI Hid Evidence

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com  

A former college student imprisoned since a jury convicted him of eco-terrorism in 2007 was freed Thursday after it was discovered the FBI and prosecutors withheld thousands of pages of evidence that could have been used for his defense, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Federal prosecutors realized they had little choice but to support the release of 37-year-old Eric Taylor McDavid, prompting a judge Thursday to order his release.

“I’ve never heard or seen of anything like this,” said U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr., who originally sentenced McDavid.

In an agreement with prosecutors, McDavid agreed to plead guilty to a single conspiracy count, which carries a sentence less than the number of years he already spent in prison.

McDavid was in prison for allegedly plotting bombing the Nimbus Dam, cell phone towers and a U.S. Forest Service lab.

Ex-Head of Milwaukee Office Resigns Amid Allegations of Encouraging Agent to Lie

Teresa Carlson/fbi photo

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

Teresa L. Carlson, the former Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Office in Milwaukee, has retired from the bureau while facing serious allegations that she encouraged an agent to lie under oath and lied when asked about it, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.

Carlson is under investigation for her handling of the case of Justin Slaby, a wounded veteran who was trying to become an FBI agent but was denied and later sued.

Carlson is accused of encouraging an underling to lie about the case in court.

She was facing termination proceedings when she retired.

Airport, Airline Employees About to Undergo More Vigorous Security Measures

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

Airport and airline employees will soon face tougher security measures being implemented by the TSA, CBS New York reports.

Homeland Security made the announcement just weeks after a gun-smuggling operation in which a bag handler and ramp agent were involved. 

Among the potential security measures could be airline-employee screenings, additional TSA patrols and random security checks.

The Aviation Security Advisory Committee is responsible for reviewing airport safety nationwide.

Stories of Other Interest

FBI Ends Investigation of Connecticut Man’s Disappearance 

NAACP Chapter Struck with Bomb Reopens in Colorado Springs

Former FBI Chief Mueller: NFL Failed to Get Enough on Info in Rice Case

Boise Terrorism Suspect Tries to Get FBI Interview Tossed Out

Ex-FBI Lawyer to Become Justice Department Fraud Chief

 

ATF, FBI Team Up to Track Down Person Who Detonated Bomb Outside NAACP Office

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

To solve the question about who detonated a small bomb outside the NAACP chapter in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, the federal government sent in two big guns – the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and the ATF, the Denver Post reports.

Federal and local investigators still have a lot of questions to answer, including whether the mosque was the target, after the first day of the probe didn’t appear to hone in on a suspect.

“We are investigating all potential motives at this time,” said Special Agent Amy Sanders, an FBI spokeswoman. “An act of domestic terrorism is certainly one possibility, in addition to many others.”

Damage from the blast was minimal, contained primarily to a small section of the exterior.

Investigators found a can of gasoline next to the explosive device.

Authorities said they don’t know with certainty that the neighboring barber shop was the target, though the owner said he has no enemies.

“Everybody loves me,” the owner, Gene Southerland, told an inquiring client over the phone on Wednesday morning. “I don’t have any enemies.”