Thursday, December 31, 2009


Who will hold TSA responsible to do its job properly?

by Larry Geller

Hey, if TSA is going to start poking around in my underwear for explosives, the least they can do is provide a high level of security in exchange.

The Star-Bulletin reported that TSA incompetence figured into the acquittal of two Oahu farm managers charged with employment fraud (Star-Bulletin, TSA lapse helps gain not guilty verdicts, 12/31/2009).

Although the jury has spoken and the managers are not guilty, the article reports on possibly troubling remarks by the judge. Sure, they’re out of context no doubt, but still disturbing, ‘cause it’s a judge speaking.

Judge David Ezra has a habit of lecturing from the bench on issues that have little to do with the case (for example, in special needs cases he has lectured about “Cadillac” services, though the issue is children being cheated out of their education).

Ezra said the jury may have found Kato and McCaig not guilty of the charges but that doesn't mean they are innocent.

"At the very least they were seriously negligent," Ezra said.

Were they convicted by the jury of serious negligence? Of course the story didn’t report everything that Judge Ezra said, but I wonder if he pronounced a similar indictment against the federal government and TSA for letting 86 immigrants into Hawaii with bogus immigration cards. The cards were so obviously bogus that TSA could be said to have been “seriously negligent.”

The article describes the cards that got through:

The backs of the cards contained numerous spelling and typographical errors.

The errors include "Deparment," "Departament," "Adminstration," "identifield," "punishible," "ins't," "Homel and Security" and "United State of America."

The front of one card said it was newly issued by the Department of Homeland Security while the back of the card said it had been issued by the Department of Justice.

And not a single card presented as evidence in the trial had a hologram on its face like a real permanent resident card.

We deserve to know whether TSA and the system of airport security is really protecting us. Certainly, the hassle of getting into an airport is some deterrence to air travel and so hurts the tourist industry on which Hawaii depends.

More important, airport security needs to be done right. As a kid it seemed to me that too many airplanes were getting hijacked or blown up, and that installing security was long overdue. We are making enemies these days by killing civilians abroad, so any TSA incompetence could lead to disaster one day.

Hijackings are now rare, of course. Mostly, it works.

We’re still not completely there if the government gets interested in our underwear but can’t correctly identify ID cards that it issued itself.

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I would suggest you get the transcript of the hearing. The Judge did call specific attention to the failure of TSA to catch the many fake id cards. And this was no lecture, it was fact.

That would be the best thing to do, but transcripts are very expensive. I forget what it is in federal court, but when I asked about transcripts for the Hawaiian Homelands trial, it was $3.50 for every 10 minutes or so. This puts them out of the reach of reporters or bloggers.

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