Bad Day at Dulles

Travel writer and civil rights activist Edward Hasbrouck had a bad day at Dulles Airport, which as he says, leaves many Unanswered questions:

… the TSA has crafted its procedures so that the demand for identification credentials is made neither by the TSA itself nor the airline, but by a third party whose identity and authority are entirely unverifiable to the traveller, and who is accountable to the traveller neither through government legislative and regulatory procedures nor through enforcement of contractual rights (since they have no contractual relationship to the traveller).

To give an added frisson of resemblance to countries with corrupt or dysfunctional police and governments, the people in uniform demanding people’s credentials are lying about being government employees. The real government employees watching them don’t care. And if, like me, you so much as ask a few polite questions about what is going on, you are detained, threatened with arrest, searched, investigated, your papers copied by the government for your permanent (I can only presume) dossier, and the unaccountable third party (and, in the case of any RFID passport, anyone else within range with a reader in their luggage) left with the unregulated legal “right” to use and sell any data obtained from its government-coerced scrutiny of your credentials.

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3 Responses to Bad Day at Dulles

  1. Ugh says:

    The TSA takes advantage of the fact that most people just want to get where they’re going and be done with it. When some starts asserting their rights or asking questions, they are branded a “troublemaker” and their behavior “suspicious” and, if they’re lucky, likely put on a list somewhere. And they copied his papers? Sheesh.

    Further, the TSA employees been given no small measure of power over everyone who passes through an airport. The temptation to abuse that power when anyone dares challenge it (or even if they don’t) must be overwhelming, especially for those employees who have never had such power before. We must all go like little sheep showing our credentials.

    I believe that this state of affairs is the pre-cursor to what will turn out to be al Qaeda’s biggest victory in its war against the U.S.: turning the United States into the kind of police-state regime that Muslims in the Middle East have endured, generally with our support, for a great deal of the past century or. Its happening. Indefinite detention without charge, warrantless searches, secret prisons, phone record and internet snooping, torture, extraordinary rendition, “papers please,” ghost detainees, etc. At least the TSA is in your face and you know its happening. All the other stuff too often flies below the radar before its too late.

    I work in DC on Pennsylvania, about as close to the White House as you can get without working for the Government. I’ve been tempted to go up on the roof of our building with my 35mm camera and start taking pictures with my telephoto lens to see what happens. If nothing does, I was thinking of specifically photographing the various security features and posting them on a website (easier said than done as I have not entered the digital photo age) to see how long it takes for federal agents to show up. Is there a statute prohibiting this sort of thing?

  2. burt says:

    Fly the planes by wire. Program them to not hit large obstructions.

  3. Phill says:

    The folk at Dulles are particularly obnoxious.

    First Dulles is obnoxioius. The airport itself is named after one of the guys responsible for screwing up the middle east by replacing the democratic government of Iran with a brutal dictator. The airport has turned out about as well as the scheme of its namesake.

    Those piddly busses to take you to the terminal instead of having a tunnel like everywhere else – yuk. They have at least a hundred busses, really complex special ones at that which must cost about a million a piece. So thats 100 million in capital before you account for the cost of the drivers and the fifteen minute delay they add to getting to the terminal (and again on return).

    The roof of the main building clearly cost several times what it would have cost to do the tunnel. OK so you have a large space, you need a high ceiling to avoid claustrophobia, so don’t make the space so huge in the first place.

    I was at Dulles yesterday, the pimply sprog telling people to take off their shoes &ct was telling people to take off their wristwatches as well. I pointed out that since my watch is made of gold, stainless steel and brass it is not going to set of the scanner which works on magnetism. The magnetic field induced in my arm is going to be bigger than the watch (the metals are very weakly paramagnetic, my arm is much larger and mostly water).

    The signage is utterly abysmal. It was done by a cretin. Arrive from the car rental shuttle and there is no sign telling you which way to go to the departures gate. On the way in finding the way too the rental shuttle was equally abysmally posted.

    The food and shops are terrible. Why is it that people who run airports think people who fly on planes only eat the worst types of junk food?

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