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Invisible and Unstoppable v. Privacy

     This blog really is a combination of two articles that  have absolutely nothing to do with each other, except that one provides a possible answer for the other. I am relying on a news story from a Utah TV station, and an answer from Parade.com.

     Utah police received a call that a woman was being assaulted by a man. When they arrived at the location of the call, they saw a car pulling away with a man and a woman. As they followed the car, they saw the man punch the woman.

     Soon, the police were able to pull the car over and the woman and a child ran from the car. The man in the car was taken to the hospital to be checked out; and then charged with assault. He argued with the police, claiming that he could not be charged because he was “invisible and unstoppable”.  Sounds like he had something worse than too many glasses of sweet tea.

     In an unrelated note (only related through my blogging talent of taking nothing and combining to make nothing), “Manner Up!” from Parade.com responded to the following question:

      “I recently had a hip replacement and my sister-in-law has been posting updates about my status, with photos from the hospital, on Facebook. I’ve asked her to stop but she says I’m being silly. How can I get her to stop”.

     I guess there’s a legal and a practical answer to this. You can’t really hire bodyguards at the hospital, and ask them to tackle and rip up any camera, like a paparazzi moment. Plus, with so many reality shows on TV, people have come to accept the Facebook phenomenon of  posting everything on Facebook and Twitter.

     We all do have a right of an expectation of privacy and even family is bound by that legal principle. Unfortunately, it’s like being in a crosswalk; A car might hit you, even when you are in the right.

     There’s not much that you can do to “enforce your right”. No one really wants to sue a  family member for an invasion of privacy. You can’t even force them to wear a hospital gown despite the fact that it would remind them that those “breeze in the back” hospital gowns are only funny for those not wearing them.

     This is one of those blogs where the answer is what you expect legally, but I really don’t have a good answer. Instead, I thought I would revert back to the Utah man. Maybe, the best way to stop Facebook postings is to make a claim of being invisible and unstoppable.

     And now, pic o’ day from Parade.com which posts a true Civil War picture and a current John Travolta picture. They then raise the question, “How old is John Travolta?” 

A Baby Watch List

     Yogi Berra says that “you can observe a lot by watching”.  I guess that’s why I can’t help myself. I keep an eye on the Traffic Safety Administration because it seems that I keep seeing some amazing items pop up in the news. There is now another good reason to make sure that you are in a good mood when you travel.

      USA Today reports that  airline passengers who kick a wall, throw a suitcase or make some feisty remark to a security screener, could be placed on a little known Homeland Security database. Being “on the list” could subject them to more stringent future screening and cause them to be regularly pulled aside during future flying trips.  According to the uncontradicted report, the TSA is keeping record of people where screeners report some interaction that caused feeling of being threatened or  aggression.

     This “Baby Watch List”  can include names, birthdates, social security numbers, home addresses and phone numbers of those that are put on the list. The list was started in 2007, about the same time that screeners were outfitted with new uniforms that included police style badges pinned to the shirt, to convey authority. So far, no word on whether hats that look like a crewcut are in the making.

     The TSA says that the list does exist but that it really is for people that display violence or some form of verbal threat.  In their words, it is just meant “as a focus on prevention”.  Of course, it seems to me that it grants authority to any one screener who now has the power to put any person on this watch list, which can then be disseminated to other government agencies, airports, airlines, rail and bus systems. If they don’t like how you eye ball them, then you probably need to get used to those words, “Step aside”. Those words probably would start to sound like the policeman who says, as he hands the ticket, “Press hard, three copies”. 

     All states have unique laws on their books that date back many years. In many instances, no one really knows that they are still on the books or they simply have not gotten around to change, modify or remove those laws. For instance, in Oklahoma,  It is against the law to make “ugly faces” at dogs. Such action may subject the offender to fines or even being jailed. I guess you would be well advised to smile at all dogs in Oklahoma and continue to wear that smile to the airport.

Trust TSA?

     US Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced legislation last year,  that would ban the routine use of body scanners at airports, because he said that  “The images offer a disturbingly accurate view of a person’s body underneath clothing, even allowing Transportation Security Administration officials to distinguish gender or see the sweat on a person’s back.”  People such as  Michael Chertoff, former secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush,  ridiculed such thinking under the categorization of “privacy ideologues, for whom every security measure is unacceptable.”  We’re told to trust TSA.  

When the airport scanners came under more scrutiny over the way that images are transmitted and stored, the public was assured that these “revealing” images were only seen by an unknown Transportation Security Administration official, who was securely locked in a room. The fact that the machines were equipped with “10 selectable levels of privacy” was really related to training and the TSA quickly assured us that the operator in that locked room immediately deletes each image after seeing it. And, oh yea, each operator is forbidden to take a camera into these remote rooms. We’re told to trust the TSA.

     44 year old Rolando Negrin got in a fight with  co-employee Hugo Osomo at the Miami airport. Now, employees fighting among each other isn’t that unusual. However, this fight was between two employees of the Transportation Security Administration. The reason for the fight: Osomo was making fun of Negrin’s anatomy, as a result of the images taken during  full-body scanning machine training. We’re told to trust the TSA.

     As you make your way through security toward that plane tube, where you can pay an extra $20 for leg room, scrunch up in a seat made for a gymnast, or maybe even get some free stale pretzels, do you ever wonder what those TSA employees are thinking about? Are they happy about their job? Is every day interesting? Are they really just doing their job, as we are being led to believe?

     NPR reports that TSA officers are among the lowest paid of all Federal Workers. The starting salaries are reportedly $25,000 a year.  As one employee/father of two says, “You’re dealing with people’s lives every single day, and you have an officer sitting there worrying about how they’re going to pay their rent”. Now, we all know that these are the workers that are serving as the gate keepers.

     Knowing how much a starting TSA agent earns leads us to the story that just occurred on Tuesday.  A TSA agent surrendered to authorities after being charged with stealing $500 from a wheelchair-bound woman, who was passing through security at Newark Liberty International Airport. The agent allegedly took her bag to a table to inspect it as she was going through the ” wait, step through” area.

     Surveillance cameras at the airport show him removing one envelope  out of the main bag compartment and also sliding cash out of the side pocket. The woman went to her gate, noticed the money missing and came back to report it. The  TSA employee then claimed that he recognized her as she reported her missing money to another TSA agent, and “Mr Helper”  went to retrieve the money, “that he was holding for her”. The security tape proved otherwise.  In light of that, it’s relevant to note that since 2007, 23 TSA agents have been fired for stealing items from passengers. How about it TSA, should we trust you?

    I previously blogged on the security of the airport scanners. Apparently, not only should we be worried about the scanners, but also the employees. Now, it also gives me pause to think about whether TSA employees are really protecting us or too distracted or filled with other motives when it comes to providing security. I have always thought that they are as important as the pilots of the planes. How much trust would you have in flying, if you knew the pilots were earning 25K, fighting and making fun of each other, and going through your luggage and zippered pockets.  I’m sure there will be more blogging on this issue.

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