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Transportation Government

Don't Fly During Ramadan 1233

Posted by Soulskill
from the security-theatre dept.
An anonymous reader sends in a harrowing story from Aditya Mukerjee about his recent attempt to fly from New York to Los Angeles. After being pulled aside in the security line, he faced hours of interrogation by uncommunicative officials from several different agencies. When he was finally cleared, his airline, Jet Blue, wouldn't let him on the plane anyway. When he got home, he found evidence that it had been searched. He writes, "It was 2:20PM by the time I was finally released from custody. My entire body was shaking uncontrollably, as if I were extremely cold, even though I wasn’t. I couldn’t identify the emotion I was feeling. Surprisingly, as far as I could tell, I was shaking out of neither fear nor anger - I felt neither of those emotions at the time. The shaking motion was entirely involuntary, and I couldn’t force my limbs to be still, no matter how hard I concentrated. In the end, JetBlue did refund my flight, but they cancelled my entire round-trip ticket. Because I had to rebook on another airline that same day, it ended up costing me about $700 more for the entire trip. .. But no matter how I’ve tried to rationalize this in the last week and a half, nothing can block out the memory of the chilling sensation I felt that first morning, lying on my air mattress, trying to forget the image of large, uniformed men invading the sanctuary of my home in my absence, wondering when they had done it, wondering why they had done it."
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Don't Fly During Ramadan

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  • Proud? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 23, 2013 @08:53AM (#44653119)

    Hey, America,
    Are you proud of yourself yet? Proud of what you've become to yourself, your citizens and to the rest of the world? I can't imagine that this is what any of our founding fathers envisioned when they risked everything in order to found this country. And now look what you've made of it.

    Ashamed,
    A Disappointed Citizen

    • Re:Proud? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:07AM (#44653271)

      Hey, America,
      Are you proud of yourself yet? Proud of what you've become to yourself, your citizens and to the rest of the world?

      no.

    • Re:Proud? (Score:5, Informative)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:15AM (#44653383) Homepage Journal

      Yes, a huge percentage of Americans are actually quite proud of the version of the USA that exists in their heads. Just letting you know.

      • Re:Proud? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gnasher719 (869701) on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:25AM (#44653499)

        Yes, a huge percentage of Americans are actually quite proud of the version of the USA that exists in their heads. Just letting you know.

        And elsewhere, people laugh hysterically when they hear an American blathering about the "freest country in the world".

        • Re:Proud? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by interval1066 (668936) on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:55AM (#44653951) Homepage Journal
          I would say less than 30 years ago this was true. Now, not so much.
          • Re:Proud? (Score:5, Informative)

            by Timex (11710) <smithadminNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday August 23, 2013 @10:07AM (#44654151) Journal

            I would say less than 30 years ago this was true. Now, not so much.

            I was thinking the same thing. The country as it is today is, in my opinion, not much of something to be proud of. The government is blatantly corrupt, people that are woefully uninformed are electing the wrong people into government (or electing anyone at all for the wrong reasons), and one cannot travel quickly within the country without having basic rights violated.

            It's pretty sad when the American government makes likes of Vladimir Putin look like a "good guy".

        • Re:Proud? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Askmum (1038780) on Friday August 23, 2013 @10:00AM (#44654017)
          So true. America is not the land of the free and the home of the brave anymore. It is the land of the opressors and the home of the frightened.
    • Re:Proud? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by darkmeridian (119044) <william@chuang.gmail@com> on Friday August 23, 2013 @01:22PM (#44657029) Homepage

      Dear Uneducated Citizen:

      Our Founding Fathers were okay with slavery. Who really cares what they envisioned with regard to what's okay and what's not okay?

      Yours,
      An Educated Citizen

  • Freedom to travel (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285) on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:05AM (#44653247) Homepage Journal
    On hallmark of a civilized democratic society is the freedom to travel. One way to insure that a populous remains subservient and ignorant is to limit travel. This is because it limits experiences. For instance, if kids stay in the square couple miles that define their neighborhood, they may never learn there are other options, and that people do live in luxury. I recall attending a summer retreat with a guy from the Texas valley and how surprised he was at how big the houses were in around the the retreat. This is why many high school will encourage students to go away for college, which I agree with unless it imposes huge debts.

    In any case, while the argument can be made he could have driven or taken the bus instead of flown, and so travel is not infringed, there are cases when air travel is the only viable option. Therefore the security theater that has popped up over the past decade can only be construed as an attack on our right to travel, and, along with the job creation program called military action and surveillance, transform us into a citizenry whose ability to grow and become education is much less that the previous generation.

  • Explosives Residue (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:13AM (#44653369)

    If somebody tested positive for explosives residue going through airport security I'd be suspicious too.

    The problem here is the level of expertise of the people responding to this situation. It's like these people are DMV rejects. They do not have the training or even basic knowledge needed to deal with this situation AT ALL.

    • by wbr1 (2538558) on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:30AM (#44653547)
      The TSA is an employment program for low income, low education punks. That said, do you know how many false positives the explosives residue detector generates? I do not. I could google it, but I am fairly certain that most of the testing is done by the makers of the machines, and hence untrustable by me. Maybe the guy ate one to many airport bean burritos and had a methan riddled fart trapped in his pants that set off the detector.

      Maybe, just maybe some TSA bullie saw hindu clothes and some headgear and said let me fuck with this rag head, and pushed the little button that makes the machine light up regardless of whether residue is present.

  • by barlevg (2111272) on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:22AM (#44653457)
    This reminded me of last year's massacre [wikipedia.org] at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, where the gunman thought he was attacking a mosque. Not that Muslims deserve to be targeted for hate crimes and unconstitutional detention any more than non-Muslims, but detaining a Hindu on suspicion of being a radical Muslim [wikipedia.org]? It would be like detaining an Episcopalian on suspicion of being an IRA terrorist. After all, Whitey all looks the same...
  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:23AM (#44653461) Homepage

    Another agent came over and handed me a paper slip

    Notice that he's already receiving different treatment, despite absolutely zero evidence that he's any kind of threat to anyone.

    “You can leave, but I’m keeping your bag.”

    Something that would have been interesting to try at this point: "Ok, then. I presume there's a procedure for handling bags you've collected in this fashion, let's fill out the necessary paperwork and do everything by the book, and I'll need to be kept informed about which office to contact for retrieving such evidence once you've discovered that there's nothing criminal about it."

    “What is your religion?”

    This whole line of questioning is so obviously in violation of the Free Exercise clause it's not even funny.

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:25AM (#44653493)

    I've felt that feeling to a much smaller degree when I found out that my identity was stolen and a credit card was opened in my name. We go about our lives confident that some things are safe. When we leave the house/apartment in the morning, we're confident that everything will be there when we get back. When we walk down the street, we're confident that our body won't be violated by some random stranger. When we go about our daily lives, we're confident that someone isn't - at that moment - opening lines of credit that will financially ruin us.

    We're confident about all this because the alternative is living in terror of assaults from all angles at every second and there's no way a sane mind could deal with this.

    So we convince ourselves that we (and our belongings, credit, loved ones, etc) are safe.

    And then something like this happens which shatters our illusion of safety. Mine was a bit abstract (your credit score isn't exactly a physical entity) and was caught early so the impact wasn't as big. The author's impact was worse because his body safety illusion was shattered, his concept of having the freedom to move as he pleased was destroyed, and the safety of his personal effects was violated. Rape victims probably feel something similar. We don't really have a word that accurately describes it because it isn't a feeling we feel often enough.

    Oh and if you think you don't have an illusion of safety because you've read stories like this and know it can happen - you're wrong. Even though you read the stories, part of your brain rationalizes away the terror of the situation as "things that happen to other people" and you maintain your internal safety illusion until something like this happens.

  • by NiteShaed (315799) on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:50AM (#44653855)

    An uncorroborated story, retold in amazing detail (he remembers almost everything said to him so clearly that he's comfortable using quotation marks for dialog), complete with a clever protagonist who's at the mercy of idiots (the Jet Blue agent who, despite working at one of the busiest airports in the US seems never to have encountered anyone who isn't a WASP, the TSA drones who think they're working in the Hotel California, the cops who can't read dates on an ID card and mistake venture capital with capitol one credit cards because, y'know, they're a bunch of blue-collar dummies. Luckily though, our protagonist is clever enough to be able to guess their source of confusion immediately). Then, the chilling conclusion, where he returns home to find almost everything exactly in place, except for the missing photograph. Why would whatever shadowy TLA actually take a photograph off the wall? If they were interested in what it showed, might it not just occur to them to, I dunno, take a picture of it themselves? Then there's the procedural inconsistencies...the NYPD officer can't even be present when he's patted down "because when we pat people down, it’s to lock them up." Really? NYC, the focus of the "Stop and Frisk" controversy actually has officers who believe they can't do a pat-down unless it's during an arrest? And going back to the uncorroborated nature of the story, he would have at least had some voicemails from himself during this ordeal, except once again the universe conspired against him and when he called his parents, "Unfortunately, my mom’s voicemail was full, and my dad had never even set his up".

    I'm not going to go so far as to say that the blogger here is lying, but there's more than enough here to make me very skeptical.

    • by LoRdTAW (99712) on Friday August 23, 2013 @10:51AM (#44654921)

      You have a very good point. Someone posts a scary story. Story is posted and people go ape shit about loss of freedoms, discrimination, etc. But how do we know its true? I am not dismissing it but look at the frenzy of replies where everyone read a story and did not stop to think "is this true"? Same thing happens on facebook where people share scary or touching stories with little proof of their truth.

      Goes to show you the power the Internet can have to sway public opinion. We live in an age where people have mostly abandoned critical thinking and take things for face value. And the internet allows such false stories to spread like wildfire across the globe. In the old days such stories were old wives tales and were local to villages or towns. Reminds me of a story someone shared on facebook about a secret meeting between record execs and prison execs to make gangsta rap more popular so blacks would emulate the music and fill the prisons up to make the prison companies more money. The kicker was the storyteller was a supposed attendee of the meeting but was so afraid for his life that he refused to name any names (including his own) or locations. No proof whatsoever and hundreds of comments were posted from people who believed the story and expressed outrage and anger. Its really sad.

  • True Story (Score:5, Insightful)

    by barlevg (2111272) on Friday August 23, 2013 @10:00AM (#44654025)

    A friend of mine set off the explosives detectors while trying to fly home for spring break. He hadn't been in contact with any cleaning products or fertilizers or anything like that, and he couldn't for the life of him figure out what the culprit could be.

    In the end, it turned out it was his sweat-absorbing socks. I'm not a chemist, so I don't know precisely what it was in sweat that can set off their detectors (ammonia, maybe?), but for everyone's sake I hope TSA had some good hazmat disposal protocols for those things.

    Of course, my friend is white, so no back-alley interrogation for him.

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