American Traveler Dignity Act

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H.R.2438 — American Traveler Dignity Act of 2011 (Introduced in House – IH)
 

HR 2438 IH

112th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. R. 2438
To ensure that certain Federal employees cannot hide behind immunity.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
July 7, 2011
Mr. PAUL introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


A BILL
To ensure that certain Federal employees cannot hide behind immunity.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the `American Traveler Dignity Act of 2011′.

SEC. 2. NO IMMUNITY FOR CERTAIN AIRPORT SCREENING METHODS.

    No law of the United States shall be construed to confer any immunity for a Federal employee or agency or any individual or entity that receives Federal funds, who subjects an individual to any physical contact (including contact with any clothing the individual is wearing), x-rays, or millimeter waves, or aids in the creation of or views a representation of any part of an individual’s body covered by clothing as a condition for such individual to be in an airport or to fly in an aircraft. The preceding sentence shall apply even if the individual or the individual’s parent, guardian, or any other individual gives consent.

 


Statement Introducing the American Traveler Dignity Act of 2011

July 6, 2011

Ron Paul: Mr. Speaker, today I introduce legislation to protect Americans from physical and emotional abuse by federal Transportation Security Administration employees conducting screenings at the nation’s airports. Year after year the TSA seems more belligerent toward Americans simply seeking to travel within their own country – a most basic of our fundamental rights — and sadly Americans are just expected to shut up and take it. We should not have to shut up and take it!

Many Americans continue to fool themselves into accepting TSA abuses by saying “I don’t mind giving up my freedoms for security.” In fact, they are giving up their liberties and not receiving security in return. Time and time again we see the revolting pictures of federal screeners with their hands down the pants of children while parents watch helplessly in agony. We see elderly or disabled Americans being forced to endure all manner of indignity. At the same time, we repeatedly hear of passengers who seem to check all the boxes marked “suspicious activity” slipping through unencumbered. Just recently we read of a Nigerian immigrant breezing through TSA security checks to board a flight from New York to LA — with a stolen, expired boarding pass and an out-of-date student ID as his sole identification. We should not be surprised to find government ineptitude and indifference at the TSA, however.

What we ultimately need is real privatization of security, but not phony privatization with the same TSA screeners in private security firm uniforms still operating under the “guidance” of the federal government. Real security will be achieved when the airlines are once again in charge of protecting their property and their passengers.

To move us in that direction, I am today introducing the American Traveler Dignity Act, which establishes that any federal employee or agency or any individual or entity that receives Federal funds are not immune from any US law regarding physical contact with another person, making images of another person, or causing physical harm through the use of radiation-emitting machinery on another person. It means they are not above laws the rest of us must obey. As we continue to see more and more outrageous stories of TSA abuses and failures, I hope that my colleagues in the House will listen to their constituents and join with me to support this legislation.


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23 responses to “American Traveler Dignity Act”

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  20. Kirkland

    Dear Jhana Coburn,

    “Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind.

    And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so.

    How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.”

    Think with your head, not your heart. Your heart is for compassion, not judgement. Yes, the sudden death of 3000 Americans is tragic, but consider how many people have died to provide and defend our constitutional rights throughout Americas history… hundreds of thousands. Should we turn our backs on their sacrifice by giving away the freedoms they died to uphold? The terrorists are winning because that’s exactly what we are doing.

    And with all due respect I would like to point out a flaw in your overall argument. You seem to think the “private security companies … essentially caused 9-11″ through “lackadaisical procedures”. Did it ever occur to you that the security procedures were merely a reflection of American society and our perceived threat level? After 9-11 those private security companies were no longer lackadaisical. Replacing them with a government agency and giving credit for the new heightened awareness in policy to that government agency is naive. It was 9-11 itself that caused the change, not the transition to TSA.

    Furthermore, TSA does not make us safer. What if they detonating an explosive in the jam packed TSA screening lines. To commit the same type of attack as 9-11 they can skip the TSA and all other security by simply renting the plane.

    http://wewontfly.com/jacob-i-know-for-a-fact-that-the-tsa-does-nothing-to-protect-our-skies

    Plus, international flights INTO the USA = no TSA

    If terrorists really want US blood they have a million targets (political rallies, concerts, holiday festivals, shopping malls during xmas, subways, trains, the presidential inauguration,etc).

    The TSA is a smoke screen, the illusion of safety and security. We are not giving up our freedoms in exchange for security, we are just giving up our freedoms. “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

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  22. Jhana Coburn

    I don’t know why, but I honestly thought that age was supposed to bring wisdom. I also thought that political candidates were supposed to be somewhat smart, but with Bush and now Ron Paul, i’m not so sure. Ron Paul’s opposition to TSA is so propagandistic and ignorant. Privatizing airports is not going to change anything about how a thorough a check people receive when they fly. Those private security firms would seek that same immunity and, because it is in the name of ‘safety and freedom of travel’ it would be granted as well. The only thing that might change if airport security were privatized is the possibility of customer service and at what cost? We cannot afford to experience another 9/11 right now. We cannot afford another Richard Reid that actually succeeds. I wrote a paper for a class last semester that is quite relevant to this subject matter. I am posting it below:

    Federal vs. Private Security: The Right Decision for America’s Traveling Public

    September 11, 2001 (commonly referred to as 9/11) marked the most flagrant act of terrorism ever successfully carried out on United States soil. Nineteen hijackers, four planes and four prospective targets changed the way Americans viewed national security and air safety all at once. Complacent security in various airports over a two hour time-span caused the loss of over 2700 American lives. The National Security Agency and United States Congress quickly redefined terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience” (1) and made it a now federally-punishable crime to commit or plan any act of international or domestic terrorism. With the redefining of terrorism and the new recognition of current terror threats, former President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress created the USA Patriot Act of 2001 (also known as the 9/11 Act).
    Detailed in the USA Patriot Act was a clause (49 C.F.R. Part 1542—Airport Security
    Title 49 – Transportation) federalizing the nation’s airport security indefinitely, but airports were later granted the opportunity to return to private security firms for the first time in 2004. Of the nations over 450 airports, only five decided to take advantage of the ‘opt out’ opportunities offered in 2004, but the decision to opt out was only offered to privately owned airports, not state or federally owned airports. Public or private had been a debate many years before when deciding whether or not to privatize airports themselves (5), but even then, it seemed as though the nation was at a split-decision. Now there is a new decision to be made on the future of our nation’s airports and our national security: choosing between the private security companies that essentially caused 9/11 or the federal security that has been successfully securing the nation for almost eleven years. But with the biggest decisional basis being the happenings of September 11, 2001, federal security is a far superior option to private security in regards to securing America’s traveling public.
    Let’s first define federal and private airport security before comparing and contrasting the two. The federal airport security agency is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The TSA is a federally owned and operated sub-agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security. All ranks and positions are filled by civilian workers who are vested in government service after three years. All medical, retirement and 401K benefits are paid for by both the employee and the agency and worker salaries are paid directly from the government via the United States Department of Agriculture.
    Private security is an airport or airline-contracted security firm, hired to perform security screening procedures in lieu of federal security. Unlike TSA officers, private security officers receive salary from their respective security firms via the airline contracting their services or from their local governments (if a state or city-owned airport). Even though private security firms may be owned and operated independently, those operating in U.S. territories are still overseen by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for compliance. One example of an airline-contracted security firm is El-Al Airlines. El-Al’s biggest operation base in the United States is at Los Angeles International Airport. TSA does not oversee their security operations as they are predominantly operated internationally only having two departure points in the United States: Los Angeles International and John F. Kennedy International in New York. This fact provided El-Al Airlines a loophole when the federalization of airport screening took place in 2001, but most domestic and international airlines would not share the same characteristics.
    A more common example of a private airport security firm would be Safe Skies at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, CA. San Francisco was one of the first of five airports to date to opt out of federal security. If you have ever flown through SFO, you may not have noticed the subtle difference in emblems and patches since the color of all employee uniforms look similar, but with a closer look, you would notice that most of the workforce is actually employed by Safe Skies, while there are still quite a few that would have the TSA emblems upon them. The other four airports with similar characteristics are: Jackson Hole Airport (Jackson Hole, WY.), Kansas City International Airport (Kansas City, MO.), Greater Rochester International Airport (Rochester, NY.) and Tupelo Regional Airport (Tupelo, MS.) (2).
    TSA and DHS’ supervision over private security firms is extremely involved, assigning supervisory and managerial level positions to only vested TSA agents. In this case, private security firm officers are only allowed to fill positions from basic officer to lead officer and no further. Specialty offices such as Behavior Detection Officer, Transportation Security Inspector, Bomb Appraisal Officer and Coordination Center Officer are not available to those officers employed by private security firms either, making opportunity for advancement and promotion very slim.
    The Bare Facts
    While the tragedy of 9/11 was caused by the lackadaisical procedures and policies of private security firms, many employees of these companies were given the opportunity to transfer into TSA at its induction. This is a proven sign that workers only have the potential to be as good as their leaders. Since new policies and procedures were implemented, no terror acts have been successful in the aviation industry. Even in the recent cases of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the ‘Christmas Day/Underwear Bomber’) from Nigeria in 2009 (12), the Transatlantic Aircraft Plot in 2006 (10) and the Yemen Air Cargo Bomb Plot of 2010 (13) all flights originated from the United Kingdom where TSA has no jurisdiction.
    The Similarities of Private and Federal Security
    The same rules, regulations and procedures applied by TSA are also utilized by the private security firms in opted out airports. The separation of laptops from cases, removal of shoes and restrictions on liquids apply in all U.S. and U.S. territory airports. Because the standard operating procedures written in by the government apply to all U.S. airports regardless of security choice, all airports comply with all of the same rules. Also, some American citizens believe that TSA wages have an impact on the rate of their annual income taxes, although tax allotments have been relatively the same since TSA’s initiation in 2001. Most worker salaries are actually covered by the imposed security fees applied to each airline ticket sold. Perhaps the most important similarity is the security track record since September 9, 2001. In fact, when tested nationally, one private security firm, First Line Security of Kansas City International Airport performed even better than the average of all TSA locations (2).
    Defining the Gap between Federal and Private Security
    In this section we will discuss the nine biggest differences between federal and private security and their causes and effects.
    The first big difference between private and federal security is performance accountability. The private security firms are tested with a TSA test bag in the checkpoint screening locations only, once per shift, daily. Whereas, TSA officers are subject to the same terms in both checkpoint screening locations and checked baggage locations on the same basis. In addition to standard test bags however, TSA Inspectors and Bomb Appraisal Officer are also encouraged to create and run test bags of their own on a basis of their choosing making the pattern of test bags extremely unpredictable. Now, in both scenarios, an employee missing a standard test bag would be removed from x-ray screening duties temporarily and remediated and coached on the spot. However, a TSA officer missing a non-standard test bag bares a greater consequence, leading to formal remediation and depending on number of occurrence, possibly leading to complete re-training and testing, suspension and/or termination.
    Another or the second, big difference between private and federal security is testing practices. As of 2009, TSA officers are subject to a testing system known as the Performance Accountability and Standards System (PASS). PASS is a quarterly review of individual employee’s performance, accuracy, attendance and job knowledge which includes an annual certification in all job skills through testing. Employees can receive bonuses and/or one-time, monetary awards based upon their test scores and overall performance throughout the year (11). In addition to the PASS system is what is simply known as the “Red Team”. The Red Team is an impartial government contract company that travels about the county conducting covert tests against TSA-governed airports. Red Team tests are 100% inclusive, testing all aspects of security from checkpoint and baggage screening locations to visible-intermodal and behavior detection methods.
    In contrast, private security forms have no such system as PASS and no Red Team. The private security companies have a covert testing system of their own known as ‘PP5’. PP5 essentially does what the Red Team does except on a much smaller and much less frequent scale. With fewer covert tests per year and no standardized recertification and testing system in place, it obvious that TSA officers are more prepared and equipped to divert and foil terror threats and situations.
    The third difference might be the quality of worker to be expected given working conditions and compensation. Although TSA officers and private security officers alike enjoy roughly the same reasonable income, there are two aspects of the workplace conditions of a private security officer that do not plague a TSA officer: performance based bonuses and limitation on and/or possibility for promotion. In this case, the private security officer may be less motivated and driven to perform well and exceed expectations, perhaps being more customer-service oriented than anything; whereas a TSA officer might be more technical and detail-oriented, driven by the possibility for promotion and/or performance-based awards. In fact, the only thing private security firms had one up on federal security was a worker union, but that changed recently when after eight years of union barring by TSA directors, new director John Pistole signed an agreement allowing TSA workers the right to union representation. As of July 2011, TSA voted in and is now represented by American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).
    The fourth biggest difference between federal and private security is accessibility to information. Movies joke about it; a government agent in a black suit with sunglasses, a high-tech watch and cell phone with the classic line, “We’re the government, we know everything”, but really how far off were those assumptions? These days, I believe we all know that government is not omniscient. As a matter of fact, I believe we could all agree that there is a whole lot that the government does not know, however; we must give credit where credit is due in regards to intelligence. I do not mean intelligence as far as that of an individual. No, I mean intelligence as situational awareness and counter-intelligence as a whole. We might be hesitant to admit that the government is exceptional at anything, but if nothing else, they are exceedingly good at intelligence and counter-intelligence in the reactive and proactive means.
    While private security is inclined to the same information that is offered publicly, the clearance qualifications for classified non-public briefings have not been met. This begets the risk of being subjectively reactive to threats and leaves a staggering inability to evolve and revise screening procedures within a world of ever-evolving threats.
    Clearance levels bring me to the fifth big difference between private and federal security which is the process of employee background checks. Private security firm background checks are likely no different than one you would receive to work in retail sales or food service. There is an initial fingerprinting, criminal and background check, followed by a renewal check. As you can imagine, federal background checks are far more extensive and are equally complemented by more strenuous guidelines. Upon hiring, a TSA employee cannot have a total debt of over $7500 dollars, as a means to prevent bribery and coercion. Also, a TSA officer may not have any violent crimes in his/her record, but these strenuous principles are stepping stones to the trust and sanctity of clearances. TSA agents receive higher ‘classified’ to ‘secret’ security clearances than those private security officers who remain ‘unclassified’ (7). In addition, the diligence of a background check is revolving, meaning, at any point in a TSA officer’s work span, another background check may be chosen for them by a randomizer.
    The sixth, and one of the most significant differences between private and federal security is technological funding. Hypothetically, in a private security setting, the airport, airlines and security firm piece together to purchase equipment: x-ray machines, metal detectors, body imaging machines and etc. In a federal security setting, the government negotiates, contracts, bids for and purchases equipment on its own. It is no secret that even at a time of outrageous national debt, that the United States pockets are never empty (6). This is because we have production contracts with every technologically advanced nation in the world and even if we do not buy products from them, most are always willing to lend (6). The same cannot be said about a private security firm. Its list of proprietors and investors may be very limited not allowing full use and accessibility to all of the technological advancements available to help secure the flights it processes.
    The seventh contrast might be of more interest to frequent travelers being the federal security fee charged per airline ticket. The last time you purchased an airline ticket, you may have noticed a $10 federal security fee. This fee is in addition to the airport concession fees usually charged to a ticket when you fly. In contrast, airport concession fees can vary depending upon the locale of the airport you are departing from, are set by local government and/or airport owners under limits set by the federal government and can potentially be waived. The security fee is not variable, rather it is constant to every ticket sold and set in price. With the aviation travel being a multi-billion dollar industry every year, security fees essentially serve as TSA employee wages and salaries. Unfortunately, due to inaccurate estimates and unforeseen circumstances and costs, the security fees do not entirely serve their purpose.
    This brings us to our eighth contrast, being the difference the potential increases and decreases of government spending. Being that the United States is facing one of the biggest budget deficits since the Great Depression, government spending and saving has become a ‘hot-button issue’. At TSA’s induction, the budget was not as big a concern as it is now, making it easier for Congress and George W. Bush to convince the nation to support the addition of an entirely new government workforce to an already strained national budget. The security fee was imposed to alleviate the already fragile budget of employing some 45,000 workers. However, currently taxpayer money is also a means to providing government salaries. It is unclear as to where exactly taxpayer money goes, into what agencies and departments, but, we can reasonably assume that some of this money goes to the Department of Homeland Security, eventually funnels to TSA. But, as Benjamin Franklin so eloquently put it, “Two things are certain in life, death and taxes.”
    The difference is quite clear between federal and private security in this aspect. Leaving airports and airlines to fend for themselves in finding and contracting security firms would effectively reduce government spending considerably however, that cost might be paid in another way.
    This brings up federal and private security difference number nine; substituting higher airline price for an eradicated security fee. If most airports, especially smaller airports, went with private security, they would then be responsible for contracting private security firms. The airlines, airports and local government would theoretically have to share in the cost of contracting these firms. Initially, the cost would be on these entities but, it is no unsolvable riddle as to where those costs would end up-on the passenger. Those airport concession fee limits mentioned previously would have to be increased to provide airports and airlines alike a way in which to recoup their costs.
    Between rising fuels costs, in-flight snacks and meals, an airline would be forced to increase their prices; and between airport maintenance and staff, the airports would have no other way to cope but to raise their prices as well. Most likely, an airport’s cost to operate might not be directly costing a passenger more, but let’s consider that it raises rents on concessions and vendors within the airport, those vendors will then also have to recoup costs, putting the responsibility directly on the consumer. In fact, the last time I departed from LAX in January, I ate at a branch of Gladstone’s Seafood Restaurant. Even though there is a Gladstone’s right down the street from my house in Long Beach, the excitement of eating something I enjoy so much in a different location was just too good to pass up. I ordered the same thing I usually get: fish and chips and a Newcastle beer. What normally costs me less than $20 including tax and tip cost me close to $30 there without tip. I wasn’t surprised. I assumed the risk of a high bill eating at an airport and expected to pay more for it, but I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have done so had the price been any higher. How much inflation are we already accepting in airports and with the cost-effectiveness of private security? I mean, $11 dollars for a Big Mac Meal-how much more would you be willing to accept?
    There are many possible gripes, groans and complaints to all aspects of flying. Some complain about security rules and how they seem to always be changing, when an insider knows that the changes are due to an ever-evolving threat. Some passengers get upset when asked to step aside for random secondary screening shouting, “Do I look like a terrorist?!” While everyone’s complaints cannot be addressed without compromising the integrity of security, the TSA is on the horizon of making leaps and bounds toward distinguishing between possible threat and no threat passengers (something that private security officers will reportedly not have clearance to do). Separation in application of screening was not a possibility previously, but soon ‘risk-based screening’ will provide a sense of calm for all parties involved.
    Risk-based screening will allow DHS and TSA to distinguish between threat, possible threat and low threat passengers through an intricate passenger background check system. A passenger would submit an application for a background check and be labeled as belonging to one of the above categories. Although there is an application fee (to cover background check costs and etc.), frequent fliers have given indication that that the ease of traveling henceforth would be worth the fee (8).
    While some believe “quality security service can only be provided by those who are under market pressure and depend on a wide customer base for their survival” (Gherasim), TSA has had its share of complainants in the past but this is not to be overshadowed by the majority of praises that it receives. As much debate and controversy has abound regarding the cost-effectiveness of TSA screeners versus private screeners and with the government recently claiming that the private security cost would be 17% higher than that of TSA (9), it can be difficult to decipher which way is the way to go. I suppose it all comes down to, who would you feel safer flying with?

    Works Cited
    1. Ball, Howard. The USA Patriot Act of 2001: Balancing Civil Liberties and National Security. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Print. P151, 173
    2. “Federal vs. Private – Security Screeners: Where’s The Buzz?” Frances Kernodle Associates, Inc. Website. Nov. 2004. Web. July 12, 2011.
    3. Gherasim, Cristian. “Liberalization of Airport Frisking: Federal versus Private Security Screeners”. Ludwig von Mises Institute Webpage. 9 Dec. 2010. Web. July 12, 2011.
    4. Gordon, G. J. & Milakovich, M. E. (2004). Public and Private Administration: Similarities and Differences. Public Administration in America. Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2004. Print. P 23-26
    5. Hanke, Steve, H. Prospects for Privatization. New York: The Academy of Political Science, 1987. Print. P76
    6. “Homeland Security is Big Business”. Homeland Security Newswire Website. 3 June 2011. Web. July 12, 2011.
    7. Levine, Mike. “TSA to Clear 10,000 Workers for Access to Classified Intelligence”. Fox News Website. 12 Feb. 2010. Web. July 12, 2010.
    8. Martin, Hugo. “Frequent Fliers Would Pay for Faster Airport Security Checks”. Los Angeles Times Website. 4 July 2011. Web. July 12, 2011.
    9. Mitchell, Mike. “TSA Cooked The Books For Years On Costs, Federal vs. Private Screening”. Aviation Online Magazine. 14 Mar. 2011. Web. July 12, 2011.
    10. “Transatlantic Aircraft Plot”. Wikipedia Incorporated Web Page. Wikipedia. Web. July 14, 2011.
    11. “TSA’s Pay for Performance System is Good for Security”. Transportation Security Administration Website. Web. July 12, 2011.
    12. “Umar Farouk Mutallab”. Wikipedia Incorporated Web Page. Wikipedia. Web. July 14, 2011.
    13. “Yemen Air Cargo Bomb Plot”. Wikipedia Incorporated Web Page. Wikipedia. Web. July 14, 2011.

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  23. Albert T. Warman

    I agree 100% with this bill and truly believe that it is incumbent upon all of us to open our eyes to these injustices, and fight for the rights our founding fathers have laid down for us to defend, otherwise all hope of a free United States is lost and we will be talked about thousands of years from now as a failed attempt at a true Democracy.
    I’m a 25 year old College student, and I’m willing to lay my life down so the next generation wont be forced too.
    thank you Dr. Ron Paul you have inspired me to Fight for this beautiful land we so love, and even if you don’t become President of The United States, you have truly planted a seed that will grow into a mighty powerful Tree that will withstand the winds of injustice and stand for liberty and freedom.
    God Bless You, and God Bless America

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