Privacy Travel

Draft Position on the TSA and Travel Security

At our last general meeting, we decided to post a draft position a week to get feedback and refine the policies we want to implement once we are elected.

Our first draft position is on the TSA, Travel Security and are the better alternatives to naked scanners or groping by TSA employees.  Please add your comments so we can improve it.  Thanks!

Government should be about serving the people who have voted to create it, and to a limited extent this does happen. Unfortunately there are several obstacles getting in the way. Media corporations have created a climate of systematic disinformation designed to skew voter opinions. Elected officials often feel compelled to sell their decisions in order to keep their jobs. And the cream has not risen to the top, meaning that the people making the decisions may not be experts in their fields. All of these factors have affected TSA security procedures.

Since 2001, we have seen a series of high-profile attempts that each used different methods including box cutters, shoes, shampoo and underwear. Terrorists have constantly innovated. By contrast, the TSA has always reacted to the previous attack, rather than trying to anticipate the next one. They have focused on the objects we are bringing aboard, instead of focusing on the traveler. They are buying expensive equipment rather than hiring qualified personnel. The Israeli approach to security has its own problems but is more effective, emphasizes results rather than theater, and even costs less.

But it’s a mistake to focus primarily on a specific security approach. Just like terrorists, we must constantly adapt our approach. My proposal is to align our security with our values and create a meritocracy that will put results over politics.

  1. Our values say that security should prevent attacks, should be inexpensive and easy to implement, should respect the privacy of travelers and should not make people late for their planes. We should continually measure our performance against these values.
  2. Hire terrorism experts and random citizens to invent unexpected new ways to penetrate our security. Regular security audits will consist of trying to get through the system in various ways.
  3. The effectiveness of security can be objectively measured using the Elo rating system, a mathematical formula that can accurately predict the percentage likelihood that a specific opponent (such as an underwear bomber) will be able to win against the system. The same approach can work for our other values: what is the percentage chance that a traveler will miss her plane or object to security measures?
  4. Having measured our system, we should publish the ratings (but not the specific details of known security holes.) If there is a 50% chance or higher that an attack can succeed, then we can call it “code red.” If the chance is 10% or higher, “code orange.” Code green could refer to 1% or lower. There should be no political discretion in assigning a threat level.
  5. Rather than adopting a single national approach with fixed personnel, we should constantly vary everything we do. This will prevent terrorists from being able to anticipate the security they will face. By constantly innovating and experimenting, we can try many new ideas and measure them. In the same way, we should objectively measure our personnel and reassign some of them to roles where they are more effective.

Over time this will lead to a better and less controversial approach. No one will be able to attack our planes. It won’t cost too much. No one will have to miss their flights. No one will have their privacy violated. We will achieve this by aligning our security with our goals and values, rather than with our politics.

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5 comments on “Draft Position on the TSA and Travel Security

  1. We’re hoping to get people to suggest improvements or disagreements with this idea. Obviously if you agree that’s great too. Please let us know what you think so we can vote on a draft policy.

  2. Also to the point, we’re trying to establish a platform, so commenting on the positions that we lay out here is key to being a part of the platform.

    For the issue of the TSA and air security policy, I think that while your points are valid, we cannot limit ourselves too much based on cost. After all, it is the safety of our citizens that is in question. We cannot really tell how many threat that these scanners are stopping, and it is imperative that we be safe to fly.
    They’ve already stopped over 130 threats, even though they’ve been
    in use for only a few months. So while I agree that they are uncomfortable, and raise some privacy issues, shouldn’t we make sure we have something just as effective before we get rid of them?

    Also, what do you mean by israeli security model? I hear that bandied about, but I don’t really know what it means.

    One thing that I think everyone interested in the pirate party will agree on, however, is the necessity of ensuring transparency in all whatever methods are chosen. Transparency does not make us less safe, it makes us more safe. Good protocols for security work even when those protocols are known. Adversaries will always be able to figure out your protocols, so they should be subjected to as much analysis as possible to make sure they are difficult to defeat even when known.

    The Obama administration, sadly, is not following this essential security procedure. They are hiding and obfuscating most of the information surrounding the efficacy of these scanners. That cannot continue.

  3. I’m not an expert. Briefly, the Israeli model focuses more on travelers and less on what they are carrying. You would be asked a series of rapid-fire questions including unexpected off the wall questions that would make it hard to keep your story safe if you’re lying. They look at the stamps in your passport and will spend a lot more time questioning you, if you have traveled to countries that they consider suspicious. It’s mentioned a lot, because they undoubtedly face the greatest threat and yet their planes are safe.

    I’m not necessarily averse to spending a lot of money to stop terrorists. However, if two methods are equally effective then which one is best? I would propose that cost, privacy and the ease of implementing them are other factors to take into account.

    I completely agree with your comments on transparency — if the government solved this problem then it would go a long way to addressing my concerns.

    • I agree on the Israeli model. Focusing on the person rather then what they are carrying is the way to go.

      Also as far as the United States is concerned, why cant they develop a system where once you book a flight, it pre-screens you for some type of quick backround check. if it raises any flags then a more extensive check is required to fly or enter the US? Id rather see money going towards a system like this then it being wasted on counter-measures that were for a previous attack or attempt?

      • I believe pre-screening is done, and there is a watch list, from which it is difficult to be removed, is not terribly accurate and which can cause people to be banned from flying, which seems to be counter to our belief in freedom of movement.

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