links for 2010-11-26 – TSA Edition, Ep. 5: The Em-Tyner Strikes Back

links for 2010-11-25 – TSA Edition, Ep. 4: A New Grope

Congressman Burgess responds on TSA’s new policies

Michael C. Burgess, the Congressional representative for our little sliver of Texas, has responded to the letter I sent him a week and a half ago expressing my displeasure with the TSA’s new imaging and groping “enhanced” pat-down policies. His response is below, in its entirety. I have added emphasis in the fourth paragraph not present in the original.

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Dear Mr. Turner:
Thank you for contacting me to express your concern regarding the security policies of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter.
As you are aware, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently purchased full body scanners that show the outline of the naked human body and allow TSA to detect high-density bomb-making materials. In response to a large number of complaints from both travelers and employees in the airline industry, DHS instituted a new policy that allows travelers to “opt out” of the digital image scanning. This “opt out” procedure allows for the traveler to step aside and receive a full-body pat-down to check for hidden substances or items on the persons. As a result, TSA and DHS implemented a new “pat-down” procedure that serves as an alternative procedure for those travelers who wish to refuse the full-body scan.
Over the past few weeks, I have received hundreds of phone calls from concerned constituents, and seen news reports of people who are outraged by TSA’s invasive full-body scans and “pat-down” procedures that are now used in the name of national security. After recently flying myself and witnessing how invasive these procedures are, as well as the potential for abuse, I am outraged that TSA chose to implement the new rules without consulting with Congress. TSA is charged with protecting our airplanes from the kind of terrorism we saw in the terror attacks on 9/11, but this should not result in an abuse of power and the exploitation of Americans.
Further disconcerting is the fact that Congress voted overwhelmingly to prohibit the TSA’s use of full-body scanners as a primary screening method. H.R. 2200, the Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act, contained an amendment to prohibit the TSA’s use of full-body scanners as a primary screening method. House Amendment 172 passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 310 to 118, but TSA has ignored this, and plans to deploy over 1,000 machines in use at airports across the country by the end of next year. Although this legislation is awaiting further action in the Senate, the sense of Congress is clear – these invasive methods are not the best use of TSA resources.
In light of our serious concerns regarding the agency’s use of invasive tactics, I joined several of my colleagues in Congress to request that the House Homeland Security Committee conduct a hearing on the new TSA procedures.
It is unfortunate terrorism from abroad has brought us to this point. Rest assured, I am committed to securing our nations’ airlines and preventing another terrorist attack, as well as to protecting your Constitutional rights. Representing an area with several major airports, I have tried to help protect, control, and monitor changes made for better security, without infringing on the very freedoms for which we are fighting. I will continue to support legislation that will strengthen our borders, protect our ports, and help prepare the nation in case of a terror attack.
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. I appreciate having the opportunity to represent you in the U.S. House of Representatives. Please feel free to visit my website (www.house.gov/burgess) or contact me with any future concerns.
Sincerely,
Michael C. Burgess, M.D.
Member of Congress

links for 2010-11-21 – TSA Edition, Ep. 3: Revenge of the Screeners

links for 2010-11-20 – TSA Edition, Ep. 2: Attack of the Backscatter

links for 2010-11-18 – The TSA Edition

For writers, a good use for all that e-mail spam

A tip for fellow writers:
I use Michael Tsai’s outstanding SpamSieve on my Mac to control e-mail spam. Based on the training I give the program, it actively and automagically sorts spam into a designated folder, leaving my inbox pristine and filled only with the e-mail I want to receive.
Now, what to do with all that spam collecting in that aforementioned designated folder?
Most folks would simply delete it all, and too bad if something found its way there that shouldn’t be. Some folks, myself included, would give it a quick going-over, to make sure their spam-filtering software hadn’t flagged a false positive: a “good” e-mail inadvertently labeled “bad”.
And an enterprising fiction writer would tap this new-found wealth for character names.
I mean, where else are you going to discover “Abdul Travis”? What a great name for a fictional character! (When I first saw that one, it sounded like something one would read in a William Gibson novel.)
So I created a new text document in BBEdit, gave it the oh-so-original title of “character names.txt”, and starting dumping in names from my spam e-mails.
I’m not sure how many pieces of spam I went through, or how long I did this, but the current document has 456 different names in it. And by virtue of receiving upwards of 5,000-plus spam e-mails a week, I always have a ready source for more names if I need them.
So skip those fancy character-naming programs, fiction writers. You’ve got a wealth of names right there in your e-mail client.

Too bad we don’t pay attention to history

“History by apprising [citizens] of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views.” –Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 14, 1781