TSA’s “VIPER” program stumbles again

Recent activities conducted by various law enforcement agencies under the direction of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), illustrate once again that the agency has a decidedly tin ear when it comes to concern for how its actions upset and disrupt the travelling public, or how it is perceived by the American people.  TSA seems now to have decided to start searching passengers after they disembark from public conveyances.  And, such programs apparently are not in response to any particular threats or actual intelligence, but are merely conducted because .  .  .  well, because they can be conducted.

If there’s one thing government is good at, it’s coming up with clever acronyms with which to label its activities.  The granddaddy of all such efforts is the “USA PATRIOT Act,” short for the legislation’s real, tongue-twister of a name, the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.”  Whew; try saying that ten times fast.  Of course, more often than not, the real reason government folks — in the Congress or in the administration – spend time creating catchy titles for legislation, is to “sell” their proposals to colleagues and to the public; and what could be more sell-able than the “Patriot Act,” a vote against which would be, by definition according to its supporters, “un-Patriotic.”

The feds have done it again; this time creating catchy acronyms for homeland security programs supposedly targeting surface transportation threats; but which in reality do more to inconvenience the public and raise questions about TSA’s credibility, than they do to enhance security in any meaningful way.

For example, the “VIPER” (or, as it is sometimes referred to, “VIPR”) program, which has been in TSA’s arsenal for at least four-plus years, is supposed to bring together various federal, state and local law enforcement teams in order to better train them to meet terrorist threats in and on America’s roadways, train and bus terminals, and other non-airport locations.

Another program similar to VIPER, is “THOR,” short for “Target Hardening Operational Response,” designed, according to a spokesman for Atlanta’s MARTA system last October, as “a surge sweep initiative designed to create an overwhelming presence of law enforcement personnel.”

The problem is, programs like VIPER and THOR, with their paramilitary titles, connotations and descriptions, raise legitimate questions about the missions and goals of the agencies participating in them.  More important, they tend to cause significant disruption to, and concern among, the public.  Such concerns, however, appear not to register with the government agencies themselves.

For example, last September, a VIPER training exercise on Interstate 20 in Douglas County, just west of Atlanta, resulted in significant delays and traffic back-ups because of the massive and visible operation stopping all trucks travelling by a weigh station on the highway.  The delays and disruptions were maximized because the authorities in charge of this particular training exercise decided to launch it at the height of the afternoon Rush Hour.

While this VIPER training program netted no terrorists, there were a few arrests for more mundane offenses, such as drugs.

A few days after the September VIPER fiasco on I-20, another “training exercise,” this time under the THOR umbrella, caused significant disruption at an Atlanta MARTA station.  The paramilitary-festooned law enforcement officers were joined by SWAT teams carrying automatic weapons, bomb specialists, and K-9 dog units.  This exercise, rather than being conducted at a time least disruptive to the traveling public, took place during morning Rush Hour.

In one of the most recent VIPER fiascos, TSA cordoned off an area at the Savannah, Georgia Amtrak station, and forced disembarking passengers to go through intensive searches of their persons and belongings.  Included among those citizens forced to submit to these highly invasive searches after they already had gotten of the trains, were young children.

Time and resources spent on such activities represents time and resources that could be spent on gathering, analyzing, disseminating, and acting on real intelligence of potential terrorist threats; and not subjecting law-abiding American truckers, travelers and families to baseless and intrusive searches of their persons and belongings.

The Congress – especially Rep. John Mica’s Transportation Committee, which oversees TSA, and Darrell Issa’s Government Reform and Oversight Committee, which has oversight responsibility of TSA – needs to ask some far tougher questions than the Congress in the past has asked about what TSA is doing in this regard.  They also need to seriously consider cutting off funding for such activities, and re-direct those resources to areas where they could have some real benefit – looking at real terrorist threats.

Perhaps if TSA and  our other “homeland security” agencies spent more time looking for the real terrorists, and less time on cool-sounding action exercises disrupting the everyday lives of law-abiding American citizens, there would be less need for such activities in the first place.

-by Bob Barr, The Barr Code

56 comments Add your comment

PatDowns

March 4th, 2011
7:55 am

jt

March 4th, 2011
8:07 am

LAND OF THE FREE.*
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.
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*subject to restrictions.

Mike

March 4th, 2011
8:08 am

I think Bob work’s for TSA

Mike

March 4th, 2011
8:09 am

I am smiling

Buzz G

March 4th, 2011
8:25 am

World’s biggest lie…”I am from the government and I am here to help you.”

And my favorite quote is from Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman: “If you put the Federal Government in charge of the Sahara, in five years there would be a shortage of sand.”

Common Man

March 4th, 2011
8:32 am

Clearly the idiots are running the asylum

Carlosgvv

March 4th, 2011
8:36 am

As long as the TSA is infused with a huge amount of political correctness, it will be nothing more than a joke. And after the terrorists hit, look for fingers to be pointing in every direction except the right one.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 4th, 2011
8:46 am

I would favor abolishing the agency and placing responsibility for security with the airlines themselves. Give them a blanket exemption from all “discrimination” laws, and let them provide appropriate service for their customers. After all, the airlines have an interest in hot having their planes blown out of the air. The agency’s only interest in same is derived from a weekly paycheck – not enough incentive to satisfy me.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 4th, 2011
8:46 am

I fly Delta twice each week. I am comfortable that Delta would provide adequate security to me.

Call it like it is

March 4th, 2011
8:59 am

TSA and their staff are nothing but a joke. Just got back from a trip with my family. I’m wearing the biker shirt, black vest, biker boots with skull rings. My 67 year old Mother-n-law who just had a back operation walking with a cane gets the full monty treatment. Apparently a cane is a red flag. She had to unbuckle and drop her pants in the back about 2 in so they could see the scar. Now I ask you who would you think might be the bigger threat, the biker or the grandmother. TSA will never be anything until they profile.

budman

March 4th, 2011
9:30 am

TSA will do what ever we let them do. Which is pretty much everything. What do you expect for $14 an hour? Still airline employees walk right thru any check and they make $7 an hour.

Tom

March 4th, 2011
9:50 am

It is VIPR not VIPER. it’s an acronym. I have to admit THOR is a much better acronym.

dave

March 4th, 2011
10:07 am

The typically Orwellian names of these opearations shows that these agencies see the world through an US vs. THEM lens. Where us = agents and them = citizens. Its a chance for them to get back at the rest of us for the social ostracism they recieved through their lives for being douchebags.
We need to be able to have a mechanism to give feedback to these agencies for the actions they take. A mechanism such as a phone number, or text message that gets carbon copied to our representative government on the state and federal level. Something where we can enter our zip code and a rating on how we were treated rather than specific comments. This way we will be prevented from saying the vulgar thoughts that are our first reaction, which may be ignored. Give us a 1-10 rating system, a way to enter our zip code, and to report how much time was wasted and how much we typically make in an hour. This way you can quantify how much productivity is lost.

Government Worker

March 4th, 2011
10:08 am

I still get a really cool patch for my costume.
..
.
And you people WILL do what I TELL you to do.I love my Control over others but…………..I do have to work with a bunch of weirdos. Why does government jobs always involve a bunch of freaks?

Georgia patriot

March 4th, 2011
10:11 am

Now that the TSA has been Unionized, any changes to procedures will have to be approved not only by the Federal government, but also by the union representative. Thus, the already disfunctional organization has another layer of bureaucracy to slow down the operation. Structurally, the TSA is positioned only to react to terrorist acts rather than to create a preventative program. Thus the lives of Americans are jeapordized merely so that Obama can receive campaign contributions from 43,000 new organized labor representatives.

Tom

March 4th, 2011
10:21 am

Bob, what do you think of a judicial challenge to Georgia’s restrictions on Sunday alcohol?

LA

March 4th, 2011
11:08 am

“what do you think of a judicial challenge to Georgia’s restrictions on Sunday alcohol?’

He tackled that subject two weeks ago. Try to keep up.

godless heathen

March 4th, 2011
11:08 am

How about the passenger who boarded a JetBlue flight at JFK the other day and 3 boxcutters fell out of his carry-one when he tried to stow it in the overhead.

According to the NY Post. The TSA spokeswoman Davis insisted that the traveling public was not at risk.

“There have been a number of additional security layers that have been implemented on aircraft that would prevent someone from causing harm with boxcutters,” she insisted.

“They include the possible presence of armed federal air marshals, hardened cockpit doors, flight crews trained in self-defense and a more vigilant traveling public who have demonstrated a willingness to intervene.”

So why is TSA still screening for boxcutters and nail files?

Native Atlantan

March 4th, 2011
11:20 am

He also pounded the TSA a week or so ago…and a week before that…and a week before that…..

godless heathen

March 4th, 2011
11:24 am

What about the passenger who had 3 boxcutters fall out of his carry-on on a JetBlue airplane at JFK. Got right thru TSA with them. However, according to the NY Post:

The TSA spokeswoman Davis insisted that the traveling public was not at risk.

“There have been a number of additional security layers that have been implemented on aircraft that would prevent someone from causing harm with boxcutters,” she insisted.

“They include the possible presence of armed federal air marshals, hardened cockpit doors, flight crews trained in self-defense and a more vigilant traveling public who have demonstrated a willingness to intervene.”

Patriot

March 4th, 2011
11:33 am

And now the Australian’s are proposing using deep-penetrating x-rays, just like medical centers do, with all of the associated cancer, etc. risks to check folks out.

http://www.naturalnews.com/031575_X-rays_airports.html

One can only imagine that the same horrible technology is only a short time away in this country. So much for ever curing cancer when the TSA is the primary cause.

And Native Atlantan, you can never pound on the TSA too much.

I Know You Are But What Am I

March 4th, 2011
11:37 am

Can we just cut this program out of existence and take our chances? Does anyone really think that the next terrorism attack would be on the airlines, anyway?

I shudder to think what would happen if the next radical fundamentalist shoved a bomb up his rear end. Talk about invasive government probes!

Patriot

March 4th, 2011
11:40 am

And from Forbes on other plans from the american Gestapo:

http://blogs.forbes.com/andygreenberg/2011/03/02/docs-reveal-tsa-plan-to-body-scan-pedestrians-train-passengers/

Who is really watching out for the safety aspects that REALLY matter?????

Aris_A

March 4th, 2011
11:50 am

I am so disappointed in my fellow citizens! No one who got off the train in Savannah refused this blatantly illegal search? I would absolutely have insisted, “I am walking out of that door, and no one is going to touch me or my bags. You can go get a police officer if you want to detain me, but I do NOT consent to search.” A police officer may not detain you or search you against your will unless he can articulate a suspicion about you, based on something other than your refusal to consent to a search. TSA screeners are not law enforcement, despite their fake plastic badges, and they can not detain you.

If you are just walking off a train and over to your car, the TSA has no power over you and has no power over your belongings. The TSA only gets away with its disgusting violations of our rights at the airport by the power of coercion and the “Do you want to fly today?” threat of keeping you away from your airplane. If you don’t want to board any mass transit, the TSA has no threat to hang over your head and you should always refuse to let them near you.

What is wrong with people that they would submit to this horrifying shakedown? How is it possible that civics education failed us so completely? I am salivating over the chance to tell VIPR to take their unconstitutional nonsense and shove it when they try to search me as I go about my daily business, when they don’t have something I want to manipulate me with.

We need to stop the TSA’s sexually humiliating tactics at airports, too. I won’t fly while they are molesting innocent passengers, forcing children to pose for nude photos, and the whole rest of this offensive and worthless charade of sexcurity.

Thou shall not encroach

March 4th, 2011
11:53 am

Bob Barr is……RIGHT! The TSA isn’t going to let any of us go ungroped. We should listen to the wisest man in this new century so far: Pants on the ground! We should go pantless in our airports until the TSA cries uncle. If we stick together and all do it, then we’ll win.

If not, we’re finished, not just as a society of jet setters, but as part of the pantsed world.

Native Atlantan

March 4th, 2011
11:58 am

@Patriot – If pounding is his MO, then he should direct ALL his efforts toward the gold dome in Atlanta and be absolutely relentless on our elected officials. Enough fodder there for years……

Ronin

March 4th, 2011
12:11 pm

Ragnar,
I agree. The airlines have a vested interest in keeping their property and people safe. It’s essential to their existence.

the watch dog

March 4th, 2011
12:34 pm

International lawlessness permeates today. We have to have rules of laws which will keep our peace, security and liberty. While searches and seizures at airports may seem extreme in the interests of safety they have to be conducted. The world particularly, the middle east is in turmoil, threatening the economies everywhere. These are not ordinary times, inflation caused by ever continue escalation of oil prices threaten every consumer related purchase, food is going through the stratosphere. It is only through the strong leadership of this country will we prosper. Our leaders deserve our unqualified support and cooperation. It is a great country with strong and willing people.

DebbieDoRight

March 4th, 2011
12:42 pm

Bob, honestly, tell the truth, “You’ve been frisked by some burly TSA fellows who felt you up?” Is that why you have such a hardon for the TSA? Dude, don’t worry!! Your sexuality is safe; everyone knows that you’d bag anything in a skirt that can prove that it’s almost 18!!

seabeau

March 4th, 2011
12:42 pm

Make the FLYERS pay for the TSA.

[...] in Georgia, as noted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, TSA loves to engage their “VIPER” program which mainly disrupts travelers at rush [...]

Patriot

March 4th, 2011
1:09 pm

the watch dog – I think you might be happier in the former East Germany or even Nazi Germany. Some of us still care about freedom and liberty. No government official is deserving of anything – least of all trust.

Patriot

March 4th, 2011
1:12 pm

DebbieDoRight – If you think that this is just about being felt up, then you should check out the links I posted. Maybe when you get cancer from some roving xray van that scans you on the street you will think twice about your glib implications about sexuality and the like. Man, what will it take for some americans to understand that liberty doesn’t mean bending over for whatever the criminals in government say is right????

RetLTC

March 4th, 2011
2:07 pm

I’d rather be free than secure any day.

Thou shall not encroach

March 4th, 2011
2:19 pm

See? Patriot’s comment was rude, crude and socially unacceptable. He’s obviously a delusional sociopath and I for one think it’s a damn shame that his mother didn’t raise him to be a nicer girl.

bwa

Drifter

March 4th, 2011
2:40 pm

Ragnar Danneskjöld, you’re absolutely right. The airlines would provide real security, not security theater at a very high price. And if someone slips through, starts acting crazy or tries to get into the cockpit, he’s going to have his fellow passengers crawling over each other to take him out.

captguitarman

March 4th, 2011
2:41 pm

The TSA will do what all self-respecting large federal government bureacracies do. Its minions will wake up every morning with one thought, one goal, one purpose in mind — to increase the size of the TSA (more and more employees), its budget, power (both internal (within the government) and external (over those it controls, i.e. public transporation passengers), and its reach. So far, they are doing just about everything I predicted they would do when formed after 9/11. How effective are they at doing their mission? It would be dishonest to say not effective at all. On the other hand, if we used Israel’s methodology (profiling and close behavioral observation), and continued normal security measures, security would be even better, and the savings in time and expense for both the federal government and the traveling public would be enormous. So, don’t ever look for anything like that to happen– because this is the federal government, you know. The TSA is nothing more than a multi-gazillion dollar homage to political correctness, and it will only continue to grow in size, power, cost, and good old fashioned bureaucratic arrogance.

SaveOurRepublic

March 4th, 2011
2:52 pm

The TSA is becoming a bush-league follower of the Orwellian DHS. Along the same lines as the fedgov “fusion centers” & “training” of local law enforcement…this is ALL about implementation of a totalitarian police state. We need to awaken from our (”mainstream” media, Hollyweird, sports induced) slumber & stand for our fleeting Constitutional rights!

Stacey

March 4th, 2011
3:42 pm

Well, TSA is under the executive branch. Dictator Obama could stop the patdowns and x-rays anytime he wanted to. Have you called your reps and senators and asked why they are doing nothing to stop this?

[...] in Georgia, as noted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, TSA loves to engage their “VIPER” program which mainly disrupts travelers at rush [...]

LA

March 4th, 2011
5:15 pm

“Patriot’s comment was rude, crude and socially unacceptable. He’s obviously a delusional sociopath and I for one think it’s a damn shame that his mother didn’t raise him to be a nicer girl.”

You sound more like a sociopath than Patriot.

LA

March 4th, 2011
5:32 pm

“Your sexuality is safe; everyone knows that you’d bag anything in a skirt that can prove that it’s almost 18!!”

DebbieDoDo is psychotic.

Archie1954

March 4th, 2011
5:42 pm

The TSA are the forerunners of a fascist state. When people have already finished their journey and are required to be molested, the reason can no longer be for the benefit of the public’s safety but simply acclimatizing the public to being manhandled and to the loss any dignity they ever had. In other words it’s the National Socialist Party tactics of the 1930s and 40s all over again. It’s amazing to me how one incompetent fool stealing an election twice could result in over two hundred years of freedom being flushed down the drain and so quickly too.

Judge not and ye shall not be a moron

March 4th, 2011
6:04 pm

Debbiedodo is psychotic.

LA is an imbecile.

I and only I am the cool guy.

bwa

Phil

March 4th, 2011
7:30 pm

Having worked in the past to deny Barr’s re-election to Congress, I find myself in the awkward position of full agreement with his analysis of TSA’a assumption of facist-style “enforcement”.

killerj

March 4th, 2011
8:45 pm

Someone will die needlessly for change.

luangtom

March 4th, 2011
9:48 pm

Ten years of existence and the TSA has not removed one card-carrying terrorist from their ranks. How unsuccessful do they have to be before the Congress gets on-board and does away with this inept and costly circus? Airlines would do better to learn from Israel and ask their airline what they have done to thwart terrorists. This circus called TSA is not even a good comedy-act.

Wilma Ralls

March 4th, 2011
11:25 pm

Where do people get the idea that these jokers have the right to treat citizens and taxpayers like this? Time for the good people of America to take to the streets and demand our democracy back, just like they did in Egypt! If we do not put a stop to this madness, they will just keep on thinking up more ways to deny us our rights and make us pay for these atrocious actions at the same time they are taking our rights away? I have had it with this stuff and will never, ever travel again until it stops!

LA

March 5th, 2011
8:48 am

Judge not and ye shall not be a moron was dropped on her head as a kid.

Ima Pol Crook

March 5th, 2011
9:45 am

Congrats to Pat for being the 1st idiot.

Now to the union slugs at Lockheed. To show what greedy, parasitic morons you are, is it smart to go on strike during a depression? I hope you do and hope the company fires you parasites so those happy to work for already overpriced wages can get your job!!!!

Lockheed Martin union could strike SundayBy David Markiewicz

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

5:45 p.m. Friday, March 4, 2011

Machinists union workers at Lockheed Martin’s Marietta plant vote Sunday on whether to go on strike.

About 3,800 employees represented by Local 709 of the International Association of Machinists have been asked by union leaders to reject what the company termed its “last, best and final economic proposal” for a new three-year contract.

The current contract expires at 12:01 a.m. Monday. Members are to take a strike vote Sunday between noon and 8 p.m., with results expected by 10 p.m. If they opt to walk out, they will staff picket lines after midnight.

The union said the company is offering wage hikes lower than those in past contracts and that the proposed pension plan “punishes” new and rehired workers by eliminating the defined benefit that would give them a fixed monthly payment in retirement.

“That is the key issue,” said Denise Rakestraw, president of Local 709. She also said fewer health care coverage options will be offered.

Lockheed said its wage package calls for increases of 3 percent, 3 percent and 2.5 percent each of the three years, totaling 8.5 percent. It also said it offered a $2,500 ratification bonus and an annual cost of living adjustment.

“We are very confident that the package we have offered is industry leading,” said Erica Crosling, a company spokeswoman. “You’re not going to find those benefits in a lot of other places.”

Lockheed called the retirement changes for new workers, “an important step … to remain competitive in our industry.”

Crosling said non-union personnel would take on additional duties if a strike occurs.

Workers in Marietta struck over contracts in 2002 and 2005, but voted overwhelmingly to ratify a three-year deal in March 2008, ending a strike threat that year.

Local 709 represents factory, technical and office workers including mechanics, electronics technicians and assemblers. The Marietta facility has just under 8,000 total employees. The facility has five production lines, with the C-130J transport and the F-22 fighter as its main products.

Find this article at:
http://www.ajc.com/business/lockheed-martin-union-could-861070.html
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