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How Airport Security May Change Under Trump

It s not just the much-mocked behavior detection gumshoes that will go, but possibly air marshals, pilot firearms training, and other TSA programs.

President Trump s budget blueprint[1] may be light on details, but for air travelers and airlines, one thing is clear: There could be big changes in the way the government handles airport security.

The White House has called for cuts in nearly every non-defense program, and while the Homeland Security department, which includes the Transportation Security Administration, is in line for a budget increase, most of that will likely go toward the president s priorities: immigration enforcement and building a border wall. As a result, number-crunchers are looking at how to cut TSA programs or staffing without jeopardizing security.

Three TSA programs have been singled out by the Trump administration as particularly wasteful:

One is the Behavioral Detection Officer program, launched around ten years ago to sniff out suspicious persons with observation techniques, in part inspired by the notoriously thorough Israeli model of airport screening (combining passenger interviews with monitoring of their body language.) Under TSA s version, screeners selected for this role spent weeks getting additional training; however, the results were less than stellar catching a small number of passengers for drug offenses and other infractions, but no alleged terrorists. The transfer of the 3,000 officers to the front lines should help ease bottlenecks. But this transition began the middle of last year following the TSA meltdown, and the vast majority of fliers, of course, won t notice any change at all. It s unclear how much money will be saved, but more than $1 billion has been spent on the program thus far.

Of the $3.7 billion currently collected from passengers annually, just $2.4 billion actually goes to airport checkpoints.

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Another item on the chopping block is a grant program to support local police at airports, specifically, large hubs like those in cities deemed likely terror targets, such as New York City[2] or Los Angeles[3], where they perform patrols and provide added protection to public areas. That will simply shift more of the burden for tasks like perimeter patrols to local governments, and lawmakers from affected areas are predictably outraged. Simply put, this administration s ‘safety last’ plan will not fly, and I will do everything I can to protect New York from the administration s cash raid for the border wall, said Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)[4]. The administration argues that this is a matter better handled and paid for by local authorities.

Schumer also took aim at a third part of the plan, which would eliminate the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Program (VIPR), which deploys teams of agents, often with canine units, to airports and other transit hubs like rail stations. After a 2013 attack on a TSA checkpoint at LAX airport, more of these units were stationed at airports, but the budget document says the results don t justify the expense reportedly around $57 million a year.

Sources say, too, that there could be more cuts to TSA if the border wall goes over budget. The air marshal program, part of TSA, is also under scrutiny, says security expert Robert Poole, a transportation analyst with think tank the Reason Foundation. While details of that unit including how many marshals are still on flights aren t usually made public, Poole says it’s a big operating expense that covers a tiny fraction of all flights. The marshals themselves have been plagued by poor morale[5], and airlines have also objected to the expense they must bear, since they typically save space for these sky cops in the most expensive section of the plane near the cockpit[6].

Another related item, the federal flight-deck officer program, could also be jeopardy, according to reports, which allows pilots who receive specialized training to carry firearms with them into the cockpit. Many supporters view it as a way to supplement the air marshals, since they both share the aim of protecting the flight deck from a 9/11-style[7] attack. But cutting funding for pilot training would also reportedly save $20 million a year.

Ultimately, airlines could find themselves funding more of the TSA s functions, as they did last summer, when airlines ponied up more than $50 million of their own monies to add staff to handle non-security chores at checkpoints and for constructing new lanes with automatic bin[8] returns.

The government also wants fliers to pay more of the cost of funding airport screening; and, as reported[9], the September 11 security user fee will likely rise by at least $2 round-trip, to $13.20 per ticket. (Look at the fine print of taxes and fees on your airline ticket, and it s there.) The airlines have signaled they ll fight to avoid this after all, they re the ones whose fares will appear higher, and who have to collect the fees.

But aviation experts say that won t be enough to fulfill the White House s goal of having the public fund three-quarters of the current Transportation Security Administration budget about $6 billion a year, according to TSA sources. (That would be up from less than 40 percent today.) Of the $3.7 billion currently collected from passengers annually, just $2.4 billion actually goes to airport checkpoints[10].

References

  1. ^ budget blueprint (www.cntraveler.com)
  2. ^ New York City (www.cntraveler.com)
  3. ^ Los Angeles (www.cntraveler.com)
  4. ^ Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (www.schumer.senate.gov)
  5. ^ plagued by poor morale (www.cbsnews.com)
  6. ^ near the cockpit (www.cntraveler.com)
  7. ^ 9/11-style (www.cntraveler.com)
  8. ^ automatic bin (www.cntraveler.com)
  9. ^ as reported (www.cntraveler.com)
  10. ^ airport checkpoints (www.cntraveler.com)

Security guard shoots man at Ferguson apartment complex

Police in Ferguson[1], Missouri[2], are investigating after a private security guard shot an armed man at the same apartment complex where Michael Brown[3] was killed by a police officer in August 2014.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ( http://bit.ly/2oxyxGF[4] ) reports that the shooting happened Tuesday evening at Canfield Green apartments. Police Chief Delrish Moss says a man tried to scare a loose dog away from children when he and the dog owner got into a heated exchange. Moss says the dog owner pointed a gun at the man.

A security guard shot the dog owner when he refused to drop his weapon. Moss says the man is hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

Some people got into a heated exchange with an officer investigating the shooting, but no arrests were made.

Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com[5]

References

  1. ^ Ferguson (abcnews.go.com)
  2. ^ Missouri (abcnews.go.com)
  3. ^ Michael Brown (abcnews.go.com)
  4. ^ http://bit.ly/2oxyxGF (bit.ly)
  5. ^ http://www.stltoday.com (www.stltoday.com)

FBI’s Presence At The Garland, Texas Shooting Appears To Show It …

Given the FBI’s skill at cultivating terrorists[1] to arrest and indict, you’d think it would have done a better job handling the planned terrorist attack in Garland, Texas. The two shooters were killed by local police before they could kill any attendees at a “Draw Mohammed” event thrown by anti-Muslim activist (and bumbling litigant[2]) Pam Geller. The FBI appears to prefer “hunting” terrorists who are about 90% talk and 10% insolvent[3]. The list of FBI terrorism busts includes senior citizens[4], people with cognitive disabilities[5], and wannabe ISIS militants so terrifying they can’t even talk their mom into giving them their passport back[6] so they can go fight for ISIS. When faced with suspects with coherent plans and firepower, the FBI simply motors away from ground zero. Literally. A 60 Minutes investigation into the Garland shooting reveals the FBI was on top of the suspects for several years[7], but failed to prevent the attack from being carried out. Elton Simpson, one of the shooters, was in constant contact with an FBI informant, and had been tracked on and off by the feds since 2006.

Dabla Deng spent three years pretending to be Simpson s friend, and was paid $132,000 by the FBI. He taped more than 1,500 hours of their conversations and finally recorded him talking about traveling overseas to wage jihad. Simpson lied to the FBI about it and got three years probation.

The time and money spent were ultimately useless. The FBI closed its file on Simpson in 2014, but reopened it after Simpson began talking up terrorism in social media posts. Less than three weeks before the 2015 Garland attack, the FBI was back undercover, in contact with Simpson. These details were uncovered by a lawyer for Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem. Kareem was a friend of Simpson’s and was convicted on material support and conspiracy charges. Multiple pages of declassified text messages not only showed the FBI was in contact with Simpson in the weeks leading up to the attack, but was actually present at the event that drew the attack.

[T]his past November, [attorney Dan] Maynard was given another batch of documents by the government, revealing the biggest surprise of all. The undercover FBI agent was in a car directly behind Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi when they started shooting.

Faced with an actual terrorist attack, the FBI agent took off, leaving local police to fend off the well-armed attackers. The undercover agent was arrested at gunpoint by cops a short distance away. Now, there may be legitimate reasons for an undercover not to get involved in a shootout. He may not have had the proper training or the weapons on hand to make a difference. But it’s definitely not a good look to arrive on scene of an attack featuring suspects you’re intimately familiar with and drive away when the bullets start flying. Especially not when the agent has stopped long enough to see the suspects exit their vehicle with weapons and, for some reason, to take a cell phone photo of the two people who would be shot at first: a school security guard and a local police officer. The FBI won’t explain what happened or why it happened. It refuses to discuss the closed investigation and claims no one at the agency had any advance knowledge of the planned attack — which presumably includes the special agent working undercover and present at the scene.

This would be the same agent whose text messages have been turned over to attorney Dan Maynard. Those appear to show the FBI had some advance knowledge of the planned shooting. The only obvious explanation for the FBI’s claim that there was no foreknowledge (other than the agency is just lying) is that it saw the communications but wasn’t convinced they were serious enough to act on. There’s a lot of gray area between talking big and being willing to carry out a terrorist attack. The FBI is never going to be able to make the correct judgment call in every situation. The problem is the FBI definitely appears to prefer pushing trash talkers into making terrorist attack supply runs at the local Wal-Mart or plane tickets to Turkey and busting them as soon as it ticks enough boxes for a successful prosecution. In doing so, its anti-terrorism skills aren’t improving. Real threats will slip through while people who would find it difficult to hold down a job, much less plan and carry out a terrorist attack, are being indicted, convicted, and served up as testaments to the FBI’s anti-terrorism skills. But in Garland, Texas — where real terrorists with a sizable supply of weapons and a coherent attack plan opened fire — the FBI was not only on the scene, but left as soon as it became obvious there was an attack taking place. No matter the reason, this isn’t a good look for an agency whose counterterrorism reputation is built on dozens of super-safe busts.

References

  1. ^ cultivating terrorists (www.techdirt.com)
  2. ^ bumbling litigant (www.techdirt.com)
  3. ^ 10% insolvent (www.techdirt.com)
  4. ^ senior citizens (www.techdirt.com)
  5. ^ with cognitive disabilities (www.techdirt.com)
  6. ^ talk their mom into giving them their passport back (www.foxnews.com)
  7. ^ reveals the FBI was on top of the suspects for several years (www.cbsnews.com)