Amtrak police chief to TSA: Stay off our property

Our colleagues over at AOL Travel reported on a really troubling story last week involving the TSA and an involuntary security check at an Amtrak station in Savannah, Georgia.

All passengers getting off a train at that station were forced to have their belongings checked, and some (including kids) underwent a pat-down.

The whole thing stinks – and the TSA of course issued their usual (non) apology. But now someone with some real authority has weighed in – the chief of Amtrak Police has told Trains Magazine that he is outraged.

Police Chief John O’Connor first thought the reports of the TSA checkpoint were a joke – but once he discovered that this “VIPR” (Visible Intermodal Protection and Response) team was performing a real search of all Amtrak passengers, he banned the TSA from all Amtrak property until a formal agreement is drawn up.

Of all the stupid things the TSA has done in the past (and there are a lot of them), stopping and forcing train passengers to undergo a forced checkpoint really is the worst.

[Via: The Wandering Aramean]

Ten crazy videos and photos from the airport security checkpoint

To most people, the airport checkpoint is where we line up, get partially undressed, and attempt to get through as quickly as possible, without incident or drama.

To others, the checkpoint is an opportunity to make a point, show off or get in trouble. We’ve collected ten funny photos and videos from the security checkpoint that’ll make you want to get through it even faster next time you fly.

From a half naked lady with a poodle to a man who picks the X-ray machine instead of the metal detector, these are some of the funniest clips we could find!

Not entirely sure what the context of this video is, but it appears to be genuine. In the video, a young girl seems to be setting off the metal detector, and decides that walking through it in her underwear is the only way to stop it beeping.

This is someone who wants to make a point – she clearly doesn’t appreciate the lack of privacy at the checkpoint, so walks through in her bikini.

This was a huge viral hit last year, and shows 52 year old Tammy Banovac passing through the checkpoint in her underwear with her poodle on her lap. She did this because she had experienced a nasty search in the past and had “nothing to hide”.

This one showed up in Twitter earlier this year when a local TV station tweeted the photo asking for more information on the man in his underpants.

Another speedo guy walking through the checkpoint. Yeah – not everyone can get away with this.

Check out this guy at a Las Vegas security checkpoint getting the full pat-down. The Marvin Gaye music only makes it better. If this were a movie, the TSA would have made it a PG13.

Partially naked Germans protest invasive security scanners. I think they could have made their point without getting naked, but that probably would not have made it on to YouTube.

“Crazy man in X-Ray machine” – clearly not happy with setting off the metal detector, this guy pops himself right inside the X-ray machine…

And what it actually looks like when you go through the X-ray machine…

And finally, here is a golden oldie from Australia – a TV commercial for mens underwear.

TSA causes two international incidents by searching Indian diplomats

It seems we common folk aren’t the only ones who find TSA‘s security checks intrusive. Transportation Security Administration officials have recently caused not one but two international incidents with India by searching diplomats.

India’s ambassador to the U.S. Meera Shankar got frisked at an airport on December 4. She was pulled out of the line because she had brown skin and was wearing a sari in a random search. When she revealed she was a diplomat, security officials were unimpressed and frisked her anyway.

Now it turns out this wasn’t the first incident, the BBC reports. Two weeks ago India’s UN envoy, Hardeep Puri , who is Sikh, was asked to remove his turban. Sikh men think it is immodest to remove their turbans in public. Once again, the diplomat mentioned his special status and was ignored. He was taken into a holding room so the turban could be checked for whatever it was the TSA thought he was hiding in there.

Hey, at least they didn’t have to go through a body scanner like Baywatch actress Donna D’Errico.

Why you shouldn’t be concerned about airport x-rays and patdowns

There’s a serious backlash to the TSA’s recent airport security policies raging through the media this month, as more and more of the flying public learn what the real meaning of “until resistance is felt” is when security officers are feeling up unsuspecting passengers’ legs.

The new policies, covered extensively here at Gadling and at every other travel and news outlet across the web are the latest version of the Department of Homeland Security’s measures to prevent unwanted people and goods from entering the world’s airspace. One of the technologies has to do with new imaging methods that can see through your clothing, potentially to embarrassing detail. The other has to do with pat-down procedures in case you’re selected for advanced screening.

In both cases, privacy is the main issue. Concerned passengers don’t want to be subject to some random security officer getting an all-too-close look or feel at their private places, and the new polices now in force make that privacy seem thinner than ever.

As word of the new initiatives and potential implications grows, so has the online calamity. A group of activists recently stripped down and protested the changes at a German airport. Over the weekend, a Californian would-be-passenger flipped out and made national news while he recorded his angry conversation with the TSA. Reddit and a number of social medias have also jumped on the bandwagon by either virally or intentionally curating a river of stories, anger and discussion about just what’s going wrong.

The fact of the matter is, however, that these security measures are not as egregious as it seems. From deep within the trenches of everyday travel, I as the Editor of Gadling can tell you first hand: it’s just not that bad.In the past month I’ve been through dozens of airports from Mumbai to Bogota to Miami to Delhi. Of the hundred times that I’ve been through airport security, I’ve been scanned with the magnetic wand a dozen times, through the backscatter detector twice and patted down a handful of times.

Each time, I did my duty: spread my legs, raised my arms, pulled out my keys or turned in circles. And each time, the security officer did his: checked my pockets, felt my thighs and patted my back. After that? I went on my way and the officer moved onto the next person. No laughs, no discussion, no disrespect or question.

It’s true. The new security initiatives do give unscrupulous individuals the ability to abuse their power and see something that would make you feel uncomfortable. But these are the bad apples in a very very large bushel, and most are just doing their jobs and want you to be on your way. Just like someone can peek into your living room window in the middle of the night or a corporation can rifle through your Facebook account, invasions of privacy can and will happen — it’s a fact of life in today’s high frequency world.

So here’s some food for thought next time you’re passing through airport security. Most of you won’t encounter a backscatter or millimeter wave scanner at the checkpoint. They’ve only been installed at select, high-traffic airports around the country. Chances are, you’ll go through the normal magnetometer and carry on with your normal flight.

If you are subjected to advanced screening, there is no promise that you won’t absorb a few roentgens of radiation or that your personal privacy won’t be encroached upon. But those risks are minimal, infrequent, and should not sway the seasoned traveler. For now, your privacy concerns should lie beyond this pop-science scare — and if, in the slight probability that something isn’t ideal for the general public’s health, you can trust Reddit users and Congressional watchdogs to raise the real red flag. Until then, keep flying.

Feds are tired of making you wait in security line

The government doesn’t want to make you miserable! Seriously. The Department of Homeland Security wants faster airport screening just as much as you do. That’s why it supports a program for screening approved, low-risk travelers coming to the United States to most international airports. The new approach has been tested for more than a year at seven airports, and screening time dropped from 10 minutes to only three.

To participate in this program, you need to be either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident — and more than 14 years old. There’s a $100 fee (which is probably worth it), and you have to submit to a background check. If you’re accepted, the customs process when you get back to the United States won’t be so bad. If all goes well, the program will eventually be open to foreigners who come from countries that have a sufficiently solid screening process.

Now, DHS, is there anything you can do to speed up all those logjams at domestic security checkpoints!