In 2006, U.S. Representative Jim Leach of Iowa introduced a resolution urging President George W. Bush to appoint a “Special Envoy for Middle East Peace.” The resolution said, in part, that “history has demonstrated that the Middle East region is likely to lurch from crisis to crisis without sustained diplomatic and economic engagement by the United States.”
In an interview March 24, Leach amended that statement. “I would say not only without our engagement, [but] ... with or without our engagement.”
That revision is a reflection of all that has happened in just the past few years: the continuing conflict between Israel and Palestine; developments regarding Iran’s nuclear program; the Arab Spring; turmoil in Egypt; and the Syrian civil war – the last of which has grown more complicated given newly escalated tension between Russia and the West.
It also hints at a frustration Leach clearly has with American foreign policy in the region – and not merely the long, costly war with Iraq.
So when Leach presents his lecture “What is Old, New, & Unprecedented in America’s Relationships with the Middle East” on April 10, he’ll have a lot to talk to about. (The speech is the first public event of St. Ambrose University’s new Middle East Institute.) But don’t expect many answers.
Most people know that there’s a wealth of information available online about members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. But while it’s not hidden, it’s often scattered among several Web sites, and it’s hard to make head-to-head comparisons without a lot of clicking and note-taking.
Here is our attempt to bring some of the available data together in one place for members of Congress representing the Quad Cities. We include Representative Bruce Braley (a Democrat who currently represents Scott County in the House), Representative Dave Loebsack (a Democrat whose redrawn district will include Scott County beginning next year), Representative Bobby Schilling (a Republican representing the Illinois Quad Cities), and four U.S. Senators: Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), and Mark Kirk (R-Illinois). All the information was drawn from four Web sites: OpenSecrets.org, Legistorm.com, GovTrack.us, and VoteSmart.org.
Beyond the basics – their ages and professions, how long they’ve been in office, and when their terms end – we include information on committee assignments and leadership, how many roll-call votes they’ve missed, personal net worth and investments, earmarks (and earmarks that went to campaign contributors), aggregate staff compensation, top-paid staffers, how campaign contributions break down from individuals and political action committees (PACs), whether they completed Project Vote Smart’s survey of candidates, and assessments from various interest groups.
There seems to be a groundswell of resistance mounting to the Transportation Security Administration's latest screening policies and techniques that include full body X-ray scanning and aggressive pat downs for those that opt-out of being X-rayed. From legislation, to law suits and a national opt-out day, perhaps the American people are approaching the breaking point, when it comes to sacrificing their rights in the name of so called security.
While the Quad City International Airport does not currently have the Whole Body Imaging (WBI) machines, there's a push by federal agencies and some legislators to make them, and the controversial pat down alternative, mandatory at all airports nationwide.
Americans have been too complacent and too unengaged in recognizing their rights are eroding at an unprecedented pace, right before our very eyes. We've been so dumbed down that we've lost sight of plain old common sense. Why would we allow ourselves and our private property to be subjected to violations just because it is a government agency? If you or I groped a person, like TSA is doing in dozens of airports nationwide, we would be arrested and ostracized from society. And how gullible has the tax payer become? The former head of TSA is the one now peddling the x-ray equipment to the very agency he used to run?
Perhaps this over reach by TSA will be the spark that lights the fires of liberty, once again, in our hearts. Here is a compilation of recent developments, along with links to full stories, news releases and videos.
Biochemist says 'naked' X-ray scanner may be unsafe
A University of California at San Francisco professor of biochemistry told CNET today that the Obama administration's claim that full-body scanners pose no health risks to air travelers is in "error." The CNET article goes on to state: "It appears that real independent safety data do not exist." In addition, the authors say: "There has not been sufficient review of the intermediate and long-term effects of radiation exposure associated with airport scanners. There is good reason to believe that these scanners will increase the risk of cancer to children and other vulnerable populations." -- Full article, click here.
Man Opts Out of Scanning/Patdown in San Diego, Captures TSA Response on Video
Jon Tyner left his phone camera on recording video while he was processed by TSA at the San Diego Airport on November 13th. When he opted out of the full body scanner and was told how he was going to be patted down by the TSA worker, he stated, "If you touch my junk I will have you arrested." The exchange that ensues between Tyner and the TSA supervisors, as a result of this comment, is extensive and instructive. Among other statements made by TSA workers, "You gave up a lot of your rights when you bought an airplane ticket."
Tyner stood by his desire to not be touched in his private areas by anyone, and subsequently was not allowed to board his plane. Furthermore, there was an attempt to detain Tyner for not complying and he was threatened with a $10,000 fine and civil lawsuit. Tyner's written account and trio of camera phone videos (with very good audio, all things considered) are available here. Above is the first video clip.
Ron Paul Introduces HR 6414 - American Traveler Dignity Act
On November 17, twelve term Texas Congressman Ron Paul introduced a one paragraph piece of legislation that "removes the immunity from anybody in the federal government that does anything that you or I can't do" and gave an impassioned five minute speech on the floor of the House. Video link, click here.
From Dr. Paul's speech: "We have to realize that the real problem is that the American people have been too submissive. We have been too submissive. It's been going on for a long time. This was to be expected, even from the beginning of the TSA. And it's deeply flawed. Private property should be protected by private individuals, not bureaucrats. The bill I have introduced… is very simple, it's one paragraph long. It removes the immunity from anybody in the federal government that does anything that you or I can't do. If you can't grope another person, if you can't x-ray people, if you can't take nude photographs of individuals, why do we allow the government to do it? If an individual did these things we would be arrested. Yet we just sit there calmly and say, 'Oh, they're making us safe.'
And besides, the argument from the executive branch is that when you by a ticket you have sacrificed your rights and its the duty of the government to make us safe. That is not the case. You never have to sacrifice your rights. The duty of the government is to protect your rights. Another suggestion I have that might help us. Let's make sure that every member of Congress goes through this and gets the x-rays and looks at the pictures and then goes through the groping pat down. And have every member of the cabinet go through this too."
Lubbock Texas Airport Director Addresses City Council: "They are touching genitalia."
James Loomis, Director of Aviation stated to his city council that with the new security procedures, the metal detecting wands are out, and "they are touching genitalia and it's absolutely wrong for these people to be doing this. First and foremost, they are not law enforcement officers." And under the fourth amendment, "There's no reason to be touched by anybody. There's no probable cause just because you bought an airline ticket." This video linked above is from the podcast NoAgendaShow.com with commentary about Mr. Loomis' statements from hosts Adam Curry and John C. Dvorak. Video link, click here.
The Rutherford Institute Defends Airline Pilots, Sues Dept. of Homeland Security & TSA Over Scanners, Virtual Strip Searches & Full-Body ‘Rub-Downs’
WASHINGTON, DC -- In a case involving the continuing encroachment of modern technology upon personal privacy, The Rutherford Institute has filed a Fourth Amendment lawsuit in federal court against Janet Napolitano, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), on behalf of two airline pilots who refused to submit to airport security screening which relies on advanced imaging technology that exposes intimate details of a person’s body to government agents. In opting out of being put through the Whole Body Imaging (WBI) scanners, the pilots, Michael Roberts and Ann Poe, both veterans of the commercial airline industry, also refused to be subjected to the alternative--enhanced, full-body pat- or rub-downs by Transportation Security Agency (TSA) agents. Insisting that the procedures violate the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures found in the U.S. Constitution, The Rutherford Institute’s lawsuit asks the court to prohibit DHS and TSA from continuing to unlawfully use WBI technology and newly-implemented enhanced pat-down procedures as the first line of airport security screening in the United States.
TSA Agrees to Exempt Pilots from Scanners & Full-Body ‘Rub-Downs’ After Rutherford Files Lawsuit
WASHINGTON, DC -- Within days of The Rutherford Institute filing a Fourth Amendment lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Transportation Security Agency (TSA) over its security screening procedures for airline pilots, the TSA has announced that it is amending its policy to exempt pilots from having to submit to either full-body scans or enhanced pat-down searches.
In a press release issued today, TSA Administrator John Pistole stated that the agency is immediately modifying security procedures to allow U.S. air carrier pilots to pass through security by showing airline-issued identification and another form of identification. Full news release here.
The Airport Scanner Scam
Mother Jones' James Ridgeway explores the blatant conflicts of interest that plagues the federal security industry, most especially the fact that former TSA Director, Michael Chertoff, is now heading the company that is selling the full body scanners to the government. "…airport security has always been compromised by corporate interests.When it comes to high-tech screening methods, the TSA has a dismal record of enriching private corporations with failed technologies, and there are signs that the latest miracle device may just bring more of the same. Yet the rush toward full-body scans already seems unstoppable. They were mandated today as part of the "enhanced" screening for travelers from selected countries, and hundreds of the machines are already on order, at a cost of about $150,000 apiece.
Within days of the bombing attempt, Reuters was reporting that the "greater U.S. government shift toward using the high-tech devices could create a boom for makers of security imaging products, and it has already created a speculative spike in share prices in some companies." Which brings us to the money shot. The body scanner is sure to get a go-ahead because of the illustrious personages hawking them. Chief among them is former DHS secretary Michael Chertoff, who now heads the Chertoff Group, which represents one of the leading manufacturers of whole-body-imaging machines, Rapiscan Systems. For days after the attack, Chertoff made the rounds on the media promoting the scanners, calling the bombing attempt "a very vivid lesson in the value of that machinery"—all without disclosing his relationship to Rapiscan.
According to the Washington Post:
Chertoff’s advocacy for the technology dates back to his time in the Bush administration. In 2005, Homeland Security ordered the government’s first batch of the scanners—five from California-based Rapiscan Systems. Today, 40 body scanners are in use at 19 U.S. airports. The number is expected to skyrocket at least in part because of the Christmas Day incident. The Transportation Security Administration this week said it will order 300 more machines. In the summer, TSA purchased 150 machines from Rapiscan with $25 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
The Washington Examiner last week ran down an entire list of all the former Washington politicians and staff members who are now part of what it calls the "full-body scanner lobby":
One manufacturer, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, is American Science & Engineering, Inc. AS&E has retained the K Street firm Wexler & Walker to lobby for "federal deployment of security technology by DHS and DOD." Individual lobbyists on this account include former TSA deputy administration Tom Blank, who also worked under House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Chad Wolf—former assistant administrator for policy at TSA, and a former aide to Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Tex., a top Senate appropriator and the ranking Republican on the transportation committee—is also lobbying on AS&E’s behalf. Smiths Detection, another screening manufacturer, employs top transportation lobbying firm Van Scoyoc Associates, including Kevin Patrick Kelly, a former top staffer to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who sits on the Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee. Smiths also retains former congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md. Former Sen. Al D’Amato, R-N.Y., represents L3 Systems, about which Bloomberg wrote today: "L-3 has ‘developed a more sophisticated system that could prevent smuggling of almost anything on the body,’ said Howard Rubel, an analyst at Jefferies & Co., who has a ‘hold’ rating on the stock." Full Mother Jones story here.
The Seven Creepiest Things About TSA's Porno Scanners
#7. They're an obscene waste of money. The House actually voted down the use of body scanners, but the TSA ignored the will of Congress and bought the machines anyway, wasting $25 million in stimulus funds. Full Alternet story, click here.
Opt Out Day Promoted for November 24th
From www.OptOutDay.com: "OptOutDay.com is an educational outreach campaign, designed to get people to better understand what they are now consenting to when they purchase a plane ticket. Many people only fly around the holidays and may not be aware of the security changes, which is why November 24 was chosen. There is no intent or desire to delay passengers en route to friends and family over Thanksgiving. Once people are made aware of what is happening, they may have reservations about the new virtual strip searches and enhanced pat downs - especially for their children or spouse or other loved one.
Several different limited-government initiatives address the issue of the income tax.
The Contract from America
The Contract from America (TheContract.org) is "a grassroots-generated, crowd-sourced, bottom-up call for real economic conservative and good governance reform in Congress." Its top 10 priorities are scheduled to be released April 15 at Tax Day Tea Party rallies. Among the top three is "Demand a Balanced Budget," which reads: "Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike."
On June 25, Alison Hart -- an aide to U.S. Senator Tom Harkin -- addressed health-care-reform issues in an open discussion with members of the public at Trinity at Terrace Park. Hart briefly spoke about current House and Senate legislation and then opened the floor for questions and comments regarding the current and future state of our nation's health care system.