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The Big Problem With "See Something, Say Something"

Anu Joshi   |   January 25, 2016    4:06 PM ET

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Slate's Alvaro Bedoya published an article chronicling how the civil rights leader had been systematically surveilled, harassed and threatened by the United States government:

Even though [King's] an American citizen, he's placed on a watchlist to be summarily detained in the event of a national emergency. Of all similar suspects, the head of FBI domestic intelligence thinks he's "the most dangerous," at least "from the standpoint of ... national security."

Bedoya goes on to list the other leaders of color in the United States who have been subject to surveillance and suspicion at the hands of U.S. government agencies over the last 60 years, including American Muslims, especially since September 11. Bedoya reaches a disturbing, if not surprising, conclusion about the state of this country's surveillance program:

If you name a prominent civil rights leader of the 20th or 21st centuries, chances are strong that he or she was surveilled in the name of national security... Across our history and to this day, people of color have been the disproportionate victims of unjust surveillance.

Unfortunately, the federal government has doubled down on broad surveillance (and harassment) of marginalized communities in the wake of 9/11. Most notably, the government has deputized untrained civilians to further their surveillance reach through the now ubiquitous "See Something, Say Something" ad campaign. This desire by the government to cast a wider net to identify and respond to "suspicious behavior" has only heightened the risk of unfair and unjust targeting of marginalized individuals.

Started in 2003, as a campaign by the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority costing around $2-3 million per year (mostly paid for through federal government grants), the patented slogan "See Something, Say Something" has now been used by more than 50 agencies in the United States, and is even in use in Canada and Australia.

Apparently the task of identifying national security threats now falls on all of our shoulders. Unfortunately, we don't seem to be very good at it. Experience has shown that this crowd-sourcing of surveillance ensures that it is not behavior or activity that is identified as suspicious, but rather skin color, religious markers, language, and other signs of difference. Individuals and families are coded as suspicious regardless of their activity. It's stereotypes passing as national security policy.

In the same vein, Think Progress' Jack Jenkins examines how "anti-Muslim profiling at airports goes beyond TSA." Jenkins provides some recent examples of air travelers acting as extensions of the government's surveillance programs by alerting authorities to individuals who made them "uneasy" or were "acting suspicious."

But the truth is, not all "suspicious" activity is created equal. And in the calculus of protecting national security, the costs of following up on these alleged threats must be included as a part of the overall equation. Unfortunately, that cost is rarely, if ever, factored into the decision-making, as Jenkins points out, "many airline protocols appear oriented toward responding to passengers who complain -- not those affected by the complaints."

This is a country that struggles with its racist history and the continued impact of racism on policies and culture today. The very idea of asking people explicitly and implicitly impacted by those racist and bigoted norms to be the country's first defense system is alarming. "Suspicious activity" becomes a code word for anything outside the accepted norm, and by participating in this charade of "addressing security threats," the U.S. government further perpetrates the cycle of oppression of those outside the dominant [read: white] culture.

As Bedoya notes, "the color of surveillance" cannot be ignored.

Friday Talking Points -- Conservatives Are Revolting!

Chris Weigant   |   January 22, 2016    8:54 PM ET

Honestly, how often is it that you get to write such a great headline? In a week that also included a Sarah Palin speech that dominated the news cycle (to say nothing of the late-night comic cycle), writing such snarky headlines is just icing on the cake, really. Good times... yes, good times indeed for Democrats watching the horrorshow that is the Republican presidential nomination process.

Where to begin?

The big news today from Republicanland was the broadside fired by the National Review towards Donald Trump. A full 22 conservative thinkers (although, with the likes of Glenn Beck and William Kristol in the mix, we do of necessity use that term quite broadly) all weighed in on why Donald Trump is a terrible candidate for Republicans to consider making their presidential nominee, and why Trump is an all-around terrible human being. With a little over a week to go before voting begins in Iowa, the phrase "a day late and a dollar short" immediately springs to mind.

The essays were contradictory in their reasons for loathing Trump, and the editor himself was writing supportive words about Trump earlier this year, but never mind. Consistency is the hobgoblin of sane non-conservative pundits, after all.

But wait! Just as this intraparty candidate assassination was being attempted comes news that the Republican establishment is basically decamping from Jeb! Bush and Marco Rubio's campaigns and moving reluctantly over to Trump. The big money men and party regulars, you see, want someone with the best chance of actually winning, and the only real alternative at this point is a man pretty much everyone in Washington hates with a seething passion: Ted Cruz. Rudy Giuliani helpfully explains: "If it came down to Trump or Cruz, there is no question I'd vote for Trump. As a party, we'd have a better chance of winning with him, and I think a lot of Republicans look at it that way." The big GOP donors have also reportedly been trying to suck up to Trump behind the scenes.

It's no wonder they're bailing on Jeb!, when you consider his PAC has such a big bundle of cash left to spend that they are reportedly attacking their cash mountain with flamethrowers -- by spending money to send out (apparently at random) little video players pre-loaded with "The Jeb Story," a 15-minute bio explaining why Jeb is going to be our nation's next president (or something -- we admit that our mini video player has not yet arrived in the mail, so we really can't be sure). One paragraph really leaps out at you, in respect to Jeb! trying to portray himself as the hero of the Common Man:

The PAC declined to say on Monday how much money they were spending to buy the video players and mail them, nor exactly how many people would be receiving copies. One person familiar with the group's plans, who asked for anonymity to speak frankly about the strategy, said that buying and preloading the video players is "amazingly cheap" with the cost per player "far less than a good bottle of Scotch."

You know, sometimes you don't even need to provide a punchline, because it would truly be superfluous... "far less than a good bottle of Scotch"... yes, this is indeed one of those times.

Which brings up the other big Republican news of the week. Sarah Palin, who doesn't just utter classic punchlines but has actually become a walkin', talkin' punchline in the flesh, treated us all to a 20-minute ramble through the poppy fields of her mind. Late-night comedians all but sank to their knees in prayerful thanks for Palin's re-entry to the political scene. In fact, so many others have been taking gleeful shots at Palin's speech (you can read the whole thing here, if you really want to) that we're just going to mention it in passing.

Palin being Palin, her own family undermined her political return, as back in Alaska her son Track -- at almost the same time Sarah appeared on stage -- reportedly hit his girlfriend in the face and then threatened to commit suicide with one of the numerous firearms lying about the Palin residence (he lives with his mom). Palin responded in true pitbull fashion, and blamed Track's troubles on (you betcha!) President Obama. Her reasoning, as always, was insane. Even though the Palin family is wildly wealthy from successfully grifting the rubes for eight solid years, Track's mental problems must be Obama's fault, for not "supporting the veterans" with post-traumatic stress disorder. So Palin is arguing for more government spending for a family that could easily have paid for mental health treatment on its own, but chose not to. Track's 0.189 blood alcohol level wasn't mentioned by mom, of course. Ah, the Palins! How we've all missed you!

We personally have long been predicting a Republican Party major freakout when they all woke up to the fact that Donald Trump has been their party's frontrunner all along. So we have to say that in the past few weeks (since this freakout has begun in earnest), we have been enjoying the fray from the sidelines. We have to confess to feeling almost sorry for Republicans who can still recognize reality when it is repeatedly hitting them in the face, such as Lindsey Graham, who recently summed up his party's chances for victory:

The only way we lose this election is to nominate somebody who cannot grow this party's vote among minorities, young women, and the coalitions we need to win. If you nominate Trump and Cruz I think you'd get the same outcome. Whether it's death by being shot or poisoning, does it really matter? I don't think the outcome will be substantially different.

Wow -- tell us how you really feel, Lindsey. I mean, is there any hope at all the Republican Party could take a different path this year?

So let's just pick somebody out of the phone book if we have to. We can win this election unless we lose it.

That's some top-shelf schadenfreude right there, wouldn't you say? Need another taste of the Republican freakout currently underway? How about this, from an anonymous "somebody" contemplating a race between Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton:

In a contest against Trump, the [establishment Republican] thinking goes, it might be best for Cruz to win the nomination, only to suffer a lopsided general election defeat, proving once and for all the true limits of his appeal. It is taken for granted that the party under Cruz cannot win. And, in Washington, life will go on.

"I'm rooting for Hillary," said one half-joking somebody in the GOP establishment. "She can't win a mandate, so we hold the House and don't get slaughtered in the Senate. We will have a great midterm in 2018 running against her," he said, requesting anonymity for obvious reasons. "We are a great opposition party."

The original story was corrected later (you just can't make this stuff up, folks!) by striking out the term "half-joking" and adding at the bottom of the paragraph: "The somebody in question wanted to clarify that he is not at all joking, not even halfway, and is indeed fully rooting for Hillary Clinton."

With quotes like these from fellow Republicans, Democrats don't even have to lift a finger to showcase the absolute revolt taking place among the Republican Party. For those of you enjoying all of this, here's a fun prediction: Things are going to get even crazier in the next few weeks, as Trump and Cruz obliterate all other GOP candidates in the actual voting. So we've all got that to look forward to.

Let's see, what else? Martin Luther King Day was this week, which uncovered a few folks who still haven't quite wrapped their minds around this whole equality thing. First there was the Air Force holding a Martin Luther King Day "Fun Shoot" where you got served lunch -- and also got to shoot off a few rounds, maybe using the flyer handed out as your target? Whoops! Not exactly an appropriate activity for the day honoring a man who was shot down in cold blood.

Then there was a children's book that had to get pulled off the shelves because of all the drawings of happy, smiling slaves baking a birthday cake for George Washington. Seriously? What century do these people think we're living in? We thought that sort of thing had gone out of style by now, but we guess we were wrong.

And finally (whew!) some news to actually bring a smile to your face. First, for those who are interested in history, the Library of Congress has a collection of historical campaign posters that are worth a look (some are downright beautiful). And an even better item to end on: Congress actually got something positive done! They passed a law which overturned -- just in time for a mondo winter snowstorm in Washington -- the ban on sledding on Capitol Hill. Free the toboggans! Have fun, kids of all ages! Yes, anyone who loves a good time can now quite literally (and legally) slide down a slippery slope, just outside the U.S. Capitol.


Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

This week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week goes to Senator Barbara Boxer, who showed why she will be so missed when she retires at the end of the year.

Boxer helpfully points out, in a Huffington Post blog, the difference between how Democrats see government's responsibility to clean water and the environment differs from Republicans -- who see clean water as one of those pesky "regulations" that are holding the private sector back from glory. The juxtaposition was missed by pretty much the entire media, leaving it to Boxer to shine some light on. From her article:

After seeing news reports over the past several weeks concerning the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, I was shocked and dismayed at a meeting yesterday of the Environment and Public Works Committee (E.P.W.) to consider S. 659, the so-called "Bipartisan Sportsmen Act," which included an unrelated amendment that weakens our nation's drinking water protections.

We have all seen disturbing reports of children being poisoned by lead in Flint's drinking water supplies. And what message do you think Republicans have taken from these upsetting news stories? At a time when Congress should be doing more to protect the American people from contaminated or polluted water, the Republican majority on the E.P.W. Committee did the exact opposite. They chose to vote for legislation to undermine the federal government's ability to protect drinking water supplies.

Specifically, the legislation as approved by the Republican majority takes away the right of the Environmental Protection Agency to issue permits when pesticides are sprayed over a body of water.

The difference in attitude of the two parties is indeed stark on the issue of clean water. But it took Boxer to point it out in all its ugly detail.

For showing the deep divide in priorities between Democrats and Republicans in such damning and poignant fashion, Senator Barbara Boxer is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Congratulate Senator Barbara Boxer on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

Hillary Clinton, far more than Bernie Sanders, has a lot of surrogates who can go out and make her case to various audiences. They can benefit her by improving her image, but they can also attack competitors (so that the candidate herself doesn't have to).

Our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week is Clinton ally David Brock, for his recent criticisms of Bernie Sanders's new "America" ad. The ad was shot at Bernie rallies for a state that is over 90 percent white. The images used reflected this reality. Brock called the ad "bizarre" and a "significant slight to the Democratic base." He piled on with the supposedly-damning: "From this ad it seems black lives don't matter much to Bernie Sanders."

A Sanders spokesman shot back, saying the Clinton campaign should be "ashamed" of its surrogate. "Twenty-five years ago it was Brock -- a mud-slinging, right-wing extremist -- who tried to destroy Anita Hill, a distinguished African-American law professor. He later was forced to apologize for his lies about her. Today, he is lying about Senator Sanders."

We couldn't have put it better ourselves. Brock is, easily, our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[David Brock is a private citizen, and our policy is never to provide contact information for candidate web pages, so you'll have to search out the Clinton campaign info on your own to express your disappointment, sorry.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 375 (1/22/16)

Our third talking point this week is really non-partisan, because any citizen who understands the Bill of Rights should be outraged by it.

But, other than that one, the whole rest of this section is nothing short of an anti-Republican snarkfest this week, just because things have heated up so much out on the campaign trail. So sit back, pop some corn, and enjoy watching them all tear each other apart. This is so much fun, it really should be illegal (on humanitarian reasons alone).


   No, it certainly cannot be that the other side is right....

This first talking point comes from a dyed-in-the-wool Republican. Matt Latimer was even a speechwriter for George W. Bush -- probably one of those who truly believed in the concept of "compassionate conservatism." It's always sad when the notions we subscribe to as teenagers get shattered, isn't it? Latimer begins his opinion piece for the New York Times with: "I became a conservative as a teenager growing up in the city of Flint," complete with a firm belief that conservatives actually did care (all evidence to the contrary) about minorities and the poor. His essay is extraordinary, mostly because he correctly points out that the Flint situation is being almost completely ignored by all Republican presidential candidates. He calls it a chance for conservatives to prove their ideas for urban poverty work -- but he also identifies the fact that nobody is taking this chance. But, in the end, he refuses to see the plain truth in front of his face. Give him a few more years, and some more scales might fall from his eyes, we suppose. In any case, here's just part of his extraordinary op-ed:

This is the Republicans' chance to show their worth -- the chance our leaders have said they always wanted. Why haven't they been here over the decades, running serious candidates, supporting federal aid for the city, championing pilot projects that might show what a conservative approach to urban areas might do? Why aren't they in Flint today, shipping in water bottles and holding fund-raisers for kids now condemned to lowered expectations because their brains were poisoned by lead?

It cannot be, as the left would tell us, because Flint has a large African-American population.


   The others are not worthy

Nice to know some people in Flint are worthy of Republican attention.

"Ted Cruz has, to date, been just about the only Republican to even utter the name 'Flint,' but one really has to wonder at his priorities. The Cruz campaign is helping to send water bottles only to so-called 'crisis pregnancy centers' -- people who browbeat young women into not having an abortion -- but not to anyone else in Flint. The message is clear: if you are a pregnant woman who chooses not to abort an unwanted baby, you are deserving of clean water. If not, well then, you can just drink the toxic waste coming from the tap because you are simply not worthy enough as a human being to drink uncontaminated water. Just goes to show how Republicans would run the whole country, if they could. If you agree with their agenda, you can live. Otherwise, you're on your own."


   Highway robbery, plain and simple

This should transcend party lines, really, because it is so outrageous an abuse of government power.

"The Drug Enforcement Agency and the Transportation Security Administration have teamed up to institutionalize what used to be called 'highway robbery.' Think that's too strong a term? I don't. The Justice Department Inspector General just reported that the D.E.A. violated its own policy by recruiting a T.S.A. agent to help it violate the Bill of Rights on an ongoing basis. The scheme was for the T.S.A. agent to search travelers' bags for cash. Then the D.E.A. would swoop in, confiscate the money, and kick back some of the cash to the T.S.A. agent for his or her help. Anyone whose cash was stolen in such a fashion had to file a federal lawsuit to get it back and prove that the money wasn't related to drugs at all. This stands the Fourth and Fifth Amendments on their heads, and is downright un-American. How is shaking down train and airplane passengers for their cash in any way legal under the Bill of Rights? How is this in any way shape or form different than pure highway robbery? Congress needs to pass a law eliminating the concept of 'civil asset forfeiture' for all federal agents, period."


   Thanks, Dad

This one's gotta hurt. Admittedly, his remark wasn't all that bad, but even so....

"I see that Rand Paul's father Ron seems to be considering giving up on his son's chances to become the Republican nominee. Maybe it's because Ron Paul personally knows a thing or two about losing a Republican nomination fight, but this week in an interview he said 'it certainly is realistic' that Donald Trump was going to be the GOP nominee. You can just picture the awkward phone call after that news broke: 'Aw, c'mon, Dad!' 'Sorry, Son, but I gotta call them like I see them.' It's bad enough to have others toss your chances of winning under a bus, but when it comes from dear old Dad, it's really got to hurt."


   Who is worthy and who is not

When purity counts, it limits your choices.

"The Republican National Committee had already kicked out NBC from its upcoming debate, because the nasty people at CNBC asked mean questions the Republican candidates didn't want to answer, and now comes news that they've also kicked out the National Review from the debate as well, because they had the temerity to criticize Donald Trump. Boy, if they're insisting on such purity in their debate sponsors, pretty soon they'll be down to having all their candidates appear on an otherwise-empty stage, and just debate each other, freestyle. It's going to be seriously amusing when the primaries are done and the 'kid gloves' Republican debates are over, because sooner or later they're going to have to answer some questions from outside the right-wing echo chamber. For now, they're still able to wrap their debates in cotton batting so nobody gets their feelings hurt, but that won't happen in the general election."


   Might want to rethink that destination, Bill

Always fun when people don't check their facts. As Salon amusingly pointed out this week.

"Bill O'Reilly has stated that if a Bernie Sanders wins the presidency this November, he's going to move to Ireland rather than pay his taxes to President Sanders. Putting aside the fact that nobody actually pays their taxes to the president himself, I think O'Reilly's in for a shock. Ireland is fairly conservative on some things, like abortion, but it also has higher taxes than America (over fifty percent for the top bracket), extremely strict gun control laws (most police aren't even armed), and -- horror of horrors -- single-payer socialized medicine! So O'Reilly would be escaping from a phantom socialist America for a very real socialist Ireland. Maybe he might want to rethink his post-election travel plans?"


   Conservatives are revolting

And finally, we end exactly where we began.

"Boy, it's tough to keep track of the revolts going on in the Republican Party these days. Donald Trump is leading a revolt against the establishment Republicans. The National Review is leading a counterrevolt against Trump. The establishment Republicans are actually waving a big white flag and are now revolting against the National Review and sucking up to Trump. Ted Cruz is leading a revolt against pretty much every other Republican in existence, who are quite willing to badmouth Cruz in return. The party's voters are leading a revolt against the big money donors. Pretty much anywhere you look within the Republican Party, things are downright revolting."


Chris Weigant blogs at:

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Nick Wing   |   January 20, 2016    9:46 AM ET

A Department of Justice watchdog officially condemned the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration this month, following a report that the agency had recruited a Transportation Security Administration security screener to search bags for cash that the DEA could confiscate.

The very existence of such a partnership highlights much broader concerns about the controversial legal practice known as civil asset forfeiture, which critics say contorts law enforcement priorities and props up a system of policing for profit.

In a summary of its investigation, the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General concluded that the agreement "violated DEA policy" on a number of levels. While the OIG determined that the TSA informant never provided any actionable information to the DEA, it concluded that the plans to pay the agent out of the cash he or she helped seize "could have violated individuals’ protection against unreasonable searches and seizures if it led to a subsequent DEA enforcement action."

In effect, the OIG was questioning the propriety of an arrangement in which a TSA agent would use his or her power to tip off the DEA to the presence of cash in travelers' luggage, and then receive compensation based on how profitable that information was to the agency.

Robert Everett Johnson, an attorney for the libertarian public interest law firm Institute for Justice, says the same criticism could be made about the entire practice of civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement officials to seize a person's property -- including cash, cars, jewelry and houses -- without obtaining a conviction or even charging the owner with a crime.

"This really is what we see every day around the country -- when law enforcement takes property using civil forfeiture, law enforcement is able to keep that property and use it to fund their budgets and in many cases even to pay the salaries of people who are overseeing the forfeitures," said Johnson.

"That creates an obvious financial incentive to take property from people who haven't done anything or haven't been proven to have done anything wrong. It creates an incentive for all kinds of abuse," he added.

Civil forfeiture has become a critical source of revenue for law enforcement over the past decade, with state and federal agencies now taking in hundreds of millions of dollars in property, and likely more, each year. Cash has meanwhile emerged as a favorite target for police, even if it's just hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Transportation hubs are a particular point of focus for the DEA. A 2015 OIG report found that from 2009 to 2013, the DEA seized $163 million in 4,138 individual cash seizures, many of which were contested and later overturned. The agency has also come under fire in recent cases that involved agents seizing cash from airline and train passengers, and in some cases, allegedly shaking them down.

In the Justice Department report this month, the OIG also called out the DEA for paying an Amtrak informant nearly $1 million over two decades to provide them with passenger information that was already available to the agency.

Law enforcement officials regularly tout civil asset forfeiture as an important tool for fighting the drug trade, because it allows them to go after property directly, without any evidence of criminal behavior on the part of its owner. Drug traffickers, they say, are smart enough not to carry cash and contraband at the same time.

Of course, it's not actually illegal to put a few thousands dollars into a checked bag -- but in the mind of some drug warriors, any individual carrying a large amount of cash must have obtained it illegally, even if the authorities can't prove it. 

Officers will often seize cash based solely upon this presumption, and then work to build a case for permanent forfeiture. Under federal guidelines and many state laws, however, law enforcement can win cases based on very weak evidence, which often has the effect of leaving property owners with the burden of proving that their property isn't related to criminal activity.

The DEA has also come under fire in recent cases that involved agents seizing cash from airline and train passengers, and in some cases, allegedly shaking them down.

Critics say this process inverts the American legal principle that suspects are innocent until proven guilty, and takes a particularly harsh toll on people who are already disadvantaged and may not have the resources to fight a prolonged legal battle.

Beyond the legal objections, opponents of civil asset forfeiture maintain that such a cash-focused approach to policing can fundamentally change the purpose of law enforcement, leading officers to prioritize activities that bring in more money, rather than those that focus on public safety.

Johnson said the TSA case highlights these concerns, and demonstrates that the DEA is willing to go to great lengths to expand its ability to make profitable seizures. 

"That's really what the OIG is saying: The TSA agents should be focused on doing their job the way the TSA wants them to be doing their job, not what they're getting paid to do by the DEA," Johnson said. "It just warps the TSA agents' priorities."

And while the Justice Department's investigation reveals exactly the sort of shady behavior that a system of policing for profit rewards, critics like Johnson say it's time for federal authorities to take a harder look at the tool that enables this system to thrive in the first place.

"If this is so problematic that it merits condemnation by the OIG, then I hope the OIG will be putting out their next report on why civil forfeiture should be abolished as well," Johnson said.

Also on HuffPost:

TSA To Stop Accepting Driver's Licenses From 9 U.S. States

Conde Nast Traveler   |   January 11, 2016   12:44 PM ET

by Katherine LaGrave, Condé Nast Traveler


States refusing to comply with the Real ID Act may finally pay the price--but travelers are in the clear for two more years.

In September, we heard the Department of Homeland Security would begin to enforce the Real ID Act for air travel in 2016, which would require secondary identification for licenses issued by four U.S. states. Now, the DHS has upped the number of licenses that don't meet their standards, which means that if you're carrying one from Alaska, California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Washington state, Puerto Rico, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, you might find yourself turned away if you're not prepared.


In 2005, following the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, the Real ID Act was passed by Congress with the end goal of making fake IDs harder to obtain. U.S. states and territories were to enforce stricter requirements when issuing IDs, including demanding more proof of identity. Several states, however, refused to comply because of privacy concerns, and it's catching up to them: Extensions to Real ID requirements are slated to expire on January 10, 2016. The DHS has already denied further extensions for Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, and Washington state, and has reputedly said they will not extend deadlines for other states.


Don't break out that passport just yet. Despite the looming deadline, the DHS has been vague about actually implementing the law. In the most recent update, the DHS said travelers could keep using their current licenses for two more years; states that don't comply with the Real ID Act have until January 22, 2018 to issue better IDs, but as of October 1, 2020, all travelers will need a Real ID-compliant license (or passport) to fly.

Under current guidelines, all state-issued licenses and identification cards (see full list at are accepted at airport checkpoints.

See the Best U.S. Airlines on

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Ed Mazza   |   January 7, 2016   12:17 AM ET

An angry California dad posted a YouTube video of a TSA agent thoroughly patting down his 10-year-old daughter at a North Carolina airport.

"10 Year Old Girl Aggressively Patted Down by TSA," the father, Kevin Payne, wrote in the title. "Does this look right to You?"

The video shows a female TSA agent at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Dec. 30 running gloved hands along the outside of the girl's clothes, covering much of her body and appearing to check some areas multiple times. 

Payne told the San Diego Union-Tribune that his daughter, Vendela, was given the extra screening when TSA agents discovered a Capri Sun juice pouch in her bag.  

He said he tried to keep his daughter calm by making funny faces at her. 

"My dad was making funny faces silly faces in the mirror and I felt like screaming the whole time," Vendela told NBC San Diego. "I know it's to keep everybody on the plane safe, but she kept patting me down. Pat down, pat down. It was like, over and over."

A TSA representative told the Washington Post that an alarm on the girl's cellphone triggered additional screening measures, and the video shows it was within agency guidelines.

"TSA screening procedures allow for the pat down of a child under certain circumstances," the spokesman told the newspaper. "The process by which the child was patted down followed approved procedures."

Payne disagrees. 

"I thought it was incredibly inappropriate, very invasive and it really violated my daughter," he said on "Good Morning America."

He said he plans to file a complaint. 


Also on HuffPost:

50 Countries and Counting: A Naturalista's Travel Adventures -- Number Two -- Honeymoon In the Bahamas

Patti R. Rose   |   January 6, 2016   10:01 AM ET

When I was a young girl, I decided that I would get married in the Triangle Church, which was actually entitled, St. Albans Congregational Church, in St. Albans, Queens.

I was not a member of this church nor was my family but I just thought it was so beautiful that someday, I would have my wedding there. I have always been big on deciding what I want to happen, seeing it in my minds eye and then manifesting it through repeating my desires and visualizing. It sounds hokey but I later put this into action through vision boards and I find it amazing that this process truly works. I also decided that I wanted to honeymoon in the Poconos. When I reflect back on the latter choice, it makes me smile because my dreams were not solidified in terms of international travel. I had been to Canada and Aruba but my travel ideas were still small.

When it was time for me to marry, after meeting my wonderful husband while we were both students at Yale University, soon after we graduated, I fulfilled my dream of having a beautiful wedding in the Triangle Church.


As we planned for the wedding, I shared with my best friend at the time, the Poconos honeymoon idea. She laughed and said, "You can't honeymoon in the Poconos. You should go to the Caribbean. You don't have to go far. What about the Bahamas? That will be so romantic." That definitely seemed like a great idea so I shared it with my then fiancé and he loved it. The plan was on. We chose Nassau, as it was a popular spot, and once again I was dreaming of crystal blue water, white sand beaches and the joy of traveling internationally.

Our wedding was beautiful, followed by a lovely reception, which included all of our family and friends, a champagne fountain and other libations, delicious food, a lovely cake and gifts galore. I was now Mrs. Rose, a married woman, and off to my honeymoon with a young man whom I loved with all my heart. We arrived at the airport, with luggage in hand and excitement beyond my imagination, ready to check in and board our plane (there was no TSA then). However, upon proceeding to check in for our flight, we were advised that the rules had changed ten days earlier. We needed a passport, birth certificate or baptismal record, or another form of ID, none of which we had on us. This situation was unbelievable! We called our travel agent (yes, they were very active then -- no online bookings) and he panicked advising that he had forgotten about this change and said he'd re-book us to fly out the next day. Immediately, I began to cry, comforted by my husband and we left the airport. I called my mother and my best friend Valerie, who tried to console me. Valerie rushed to my mother's house and they had all of our wedding gifts on display on my mother's dining room table, for us to open, when I arrived in an effort to try and bring back some joy. My mother had my birth certificate ready for me.

My husband's hometown was in Connecticut, in a small city called Norwich. We would have to drive there (It would take us 2.5 hours). When he called his parents, they told him they could not find his birth certificate in their house. They would have to go to their church (they were Catholic) to get his baptismal certificate. We headed there with earnest. I was a bit calmer because all seemed resolved and my husband assured me that our honeymoon would be just as wonderful, a day later. We arrived at his parent's home and he went to the church with his mother. To make a long story short, they came back about an hour later and Jeff's mother was in tears. My husband had a look of shock on his face. It turns out that there was some confusion in locating his baptismal certificate at the church when the priest couldn't find it. Jeff's mother then recalled that the reason was because the priest should look under a different last name. My husband was surprised and confused and then it happened. They found it and he learned that the man who had raised him for his entire life, was not his natural father. He was his adopted father! This indeed was a shocker and the details of this entire story will be revealed soon, through a video series in progress, but you can imagine the shock that my husband and I were in. Now, not only was our honeymoon delayed by a day but, my husband had to come to terms with the fact that the father who had loved him and raised him, was not his natural father and that everyone in his immediate and extended family knew and never told him out of love for him. His adopted father had been so good to him that my husband never had a hint that he wasn't his natural born son.

So, we went on our honeymoon to the Bahamas, my second and my husband's first international journey, now in a state of quasi-shock and madly in love. It was a wonderful honeymoon! We stayed at the Nassau Beach Hotel, which was lovely.

We carried a basket with us, that was given to us as a wedding present by one of my husband's many, aunts. In it was a bottle of Dom Perignon (liquids were allowed to be carried on the plane at that time), two crystal champagne glasses, a beautiful and tasteful negligee and a lovely card. We enjoyed every drop of the champagne, in the Bahamas on our first night, and forgot about what we would have to face when we returned home, as I knew that my husband would want to find his real father at some point, which he ultimately did. It turns out that his real father was the first Black President of a college in the Northeast (that's another story, altogether) and they have remained in contact with each other until this day. He's a very nice person and we have all enjoyed getting to know him and his wife over many years.

So once again, another international journey for this naturalista led to an intriguing story that made the experience exceptionally interesting. We remember the Bahamas so fondly because of all it meant to us--the beginning of our life together and a new discovery that would change our lives forever. While in the Bahamas, we went to the straw market, ate delicious food, swam in the crystal blue waters and enjoyed every moment of our beautiful honeymoon in a place that I recommend as a "must do."


We returned to the Bahamas for our 17th wedding anniversary and stayed at a nearby hotel and we visited the Nassau Beach Hotel which was still as lovely as it was the first time. Recently, we celebrated our 30th anniversary in Paris in November. We made it home just before the tragedy that occurred in Paris on November 13, 2015. But that's another story to be shared in an upcoming post. Stay tuned for that!

Below are some tips on how you can begin your travel journey, if you have not already, which I hope you will find useful. Tips will follow throughout this travel series, with more detail each time.

Travel Tips:

1. Create a Vision Board
Visualize where you would like to travel in the world. Speak this desire to everyone you know, whenever the opportunity arises. Create a vision board which includes a picture of you standing in the place where you want to go. Look at it often. Write on the vision board, "I am happy and grateful that I am now happily in... (the Bahamas as an example). Then believe it and achieve it!

2. Pack your suitcase
Once you decide on the destination that you want to travel, research the weather, pick a date and pack your suitcase with the basic items of clothing that you will need for the trip. Once you pack your suitcase, then your mind knows that you are going and you are on your way to manifestation. Always pack lightly when you actually travel, particularly now, with TSA in place. If you can bring your suitcase as a carryon, that is always better to avoid lost luggage.

3. Prepare to Travel Under TSA Guidelines
First, update yourself on the TSA guidelines as they do change. The basics that I suggest is, naturalistas, where your hair in a simple do. Your hair may be subject to a pat down, which is totally frustrating but it can happen. Where shoes that are simple to take off, avoid wearing a belt and basically -- just keep it simple.

4. Leave a Copy of your Passport behind with Family/Loved Ones
It's always a good idea to make a copy of your passport and leave it behind with family along with your itinerary (address and telephone number of where you will be staying and any other important details), just in case.

5. Change Currency Before you go or Outside of the Airport/Your Hotel
Often times, currency exchange rates are higher at the airport or at your hotel. If possible, acquire your international currency through your bank or at a currency exchange location outside of your hotel once you arrive at your destination. There should be many currency exchange locations, in the country you are visiting, which post the daily rate, which enables you to choose the best possible rate.

I hope you find these tips helpful as there will be plenty more as this series continues. Remember, visualize your dream trips as part of your preparation process. In my next post of this series, I will share my journey with you for some locations that I traveled to in the U.S. and Canada, which was part of my doctoral dissertation research process! I traveled to ten cities in the U.S. and two provinces in Canada in less than 6 months, alone. This was quite a journey for a young, married, mother of 2 toddlers! Until then, believe it and you will achieve it! Manifest your travel dreams!

What TSA's New Scanner Rules Mean For Your Next Flight

Christopher Elliott   |   January 4, 2016   10:20 AM ET


The Transportation Security Administration's new rules for screening passengers with its controversial full-body scanners -- which were quietly changed just before the busy holiday travel season -- represent a significant policy reversal that could affect your next flight.

Getting checked by the TSA's advanced-imaging technology used to be entirely optional, allowing those who refused a scan to be subjected to a pat-down. In fact, many observers thought the agency installed the 740 body scanners in 160 airports with an understanding that no one would be forced to use them, ever.

But on a Friday in late December, the TSA revised its rules, saying an "opt out" is no longer an option for certain passengers. (The full document can be found on the Department of Homeland Security's website.) The decision drew mixed reaction from experts and raised concerns from passengers. The biggest: Will I get pushed through one of these scanners before I board my next flight?

Related: Frequently asked questions about the TSA.

"Most people will be able to opt out," says Bruce Anderson, a TSA spokesman. "Some passengers will be required to undergo advanced-imaging screening if their boarding pass indicates that they have been selected for enhanced screening, in accordance with TSA regulations, prior to their arrival at the security checkpoint. This will occur in a very limited number of circumstances."

To some, the change appeared to be timed to ensure a muted public response. It escaped the traveling public's notice until almost a week later, which happened to be Christmas Eve. Anderson says the TSA wasn't waiting for a slow news day. "The revision to this policy was designed to provide TSA with the flexibility necessary to address immediate security concerns," he says. Either way, barring a major outcry, the new opt-out rules are likely to stick. But it's still too early to tell how the TSA plans to implement its new protocol or how the vague guidelines could affect your spring break or summer flights. That, say TSA observers, is cause for concern.

Passenger advocates object to the full-body scanners on many levels. The pricey machines, they say, were deployed without giving the public a chance to comment, a process required by federal law. They also say the devices violate the Fourth Amendment right to protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. Also, the scanners have not been adequately tested and may present health risks, some claim.

Critics say the technology is easily foiled and ultimately ineffective at identifying threats, citing an audit in which the TSA failed to catch weapons 67 of 70 times. To date, the scanners have not thwarted a single attempted terrorist attack, these agency-watchers correctly point out. What's more, the agency has broken a promise it made to passengers and legislators when it began installing the scanners in 2009.

"The TSA is going back on its word," says Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University and prominent TSA-watcher. "The scanners were sold to Congress and the public on the promise that they were optional, but for at least some people, that is no longer the case."

Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which filed the original lawsuit to suspend deployment of the devices, says the new policy represents an important reversal. In previous court filings, the agency offered written assurance that the scanners were optional. Based on the agency's statements, a federal appeals court affirmed the legality of using the full-body scanners as long as fliers were given a choice.

"The TSA lacks the legal authority to compel travelers to go through the body scanners," Rotenberg says.

Despite the concerns, the new scanning rules may improve security, says Stephen Lloyd, a former safety director for the Federal Aviation Administration who now runs an aerospace consulting firm in the Washington region. "This recent change was implemented, I'm sure, based on security threat assessments and the need to use scanners when security conditions dictate, to protect the public," he says.

Anthony Roman, a counterterrorism expert in Lynbrook, N.Y., concurs. "I believe it is one of the best initiatives taken by TSA in recent memory," Roman says. "Surprise is the key element of this initiative. It creates a randomness and unpredictability regarding who will be scanned and who will not be scanned." That randomness, for fliers screened in the future, can prevent a terrorist attack, he adds.

Some fliers are skeptical and upset about the change. Karen Pliskin, an anthropologist from Oakland, Calif., opts out of the scanners and plans to continue doing so. She objects to the advanced-imaging technology for several reasons, chief among them her fear that they may emit harmful radiation.

"I had a small skin cancer removed, and I don't do anything that could potentially exacerbate a recurrence," she says. "No matter that the TSA says that their scanners are foolproof; only a fool would say that something is foolproof."

Anderson says they are safe: "The radio-frequency emissions from these systems are well below the safety limits established by national health and safety standards for the general public."

Stephen Costanzo, who runs an education company in St. Petersburg, Fla., says he's not bothered by the new rules. He interprets the new guidelines to mean that only passengers with screening anomalies will have to use the scanner. "In other words, when a person, for whatever reason, has already failed multiple checks, a full-body scan can be required in order to identify with more accuracy whether that traveler poses a potential security threat," he says.

"Clearly, there is still room for abuse," he adds. "But there always has been, and these new guidelines do not change that."

For now, the TSA's new rules mean you might not be able to say "no" to its full-body scanners on your next flight. If you do, you won't be allowed into the boarding area. (Time is running out for the TSA; its scanners are expected to start reaching the end of their useful life in two years, and it's unlikely they'll be replaced.) Down the road, it's unclear whether the TSA's rules will change yet again, perhaps mandating that an opt out is no longer an option at all.

But we know when such a policy change is likely to be announced. Look for it on a Friday just before the next major travel holiday.

After you've left a comment here, let's continue the discussion on my consumer advocacy site or on Twitter, Facebook and Google. I also have a newsletter and you'll definitely want to order my new, amazingly helpful and subversive book called How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle). Photo: Shutterstock.

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Living on Your Own Terms: It's the Destination That Counts

Kyle Bryant   |   December 30, 2015    9:09 PM ET

I pull my battle tested lightweight titanium wheelchair out of my van. It hits the ground at the Philadelphia International Airport with an indestructible thud.

I leverage myself against the door handle and flop into the cushioned seat.

I put one bag on my lap, another around my neck with my keys in my mouth, as I click the lock button with a flex of the jaw.

I move to a spot where the shuttle driver can see me.

Navigating an airport is tough.

Just the thought of having to do it confined to a wheelchair can be suffocating. I can't even reach the top shelf at the grocery store when sitting in my chair, much less negotiate the airport and get to my gate on time.

But knowing there are things I CAN do creates a sense of freedom that makes every moment richer.

Don't Submit to a Shrinking World

When I'm sitting in a wheelchair, my world shrinks. A curb becomes an impass. A crack in the pavement becomes an obstacle that can cause bodily harm.

No doubt, we all experience times in our lives where there's more difficulty, more doubt, more resistance to daily actions--where people, places, and situations force us to confront our inhibitions.

When I hit that zone, I know every detail of my life doesn't have to shrink. I can focus on what I can do.

I'm proud of the fact that I work full-time-plus.

I drive a car.

I travel 90 days a year.

If you get on a bike, I'll kick your ass.

I don't want people to feel sorry for me just because I'm in a wheelchair.

If I embraced this thinking, I would still be riding around the block, I may have never completed the World's Toughest Bike Race - Race Across America, or piloted my trike up a 14,000-foot mountain--the highest paved road in North America.

Assert Your Will at Every Opportunity

I finally wave the driver down and notice that he's new.

The look on his face says he's trying to figure out how he's going to carry me up the stairs of his bus.

When I stand up I can almost hear him yell:

"It's a miracle!"

Still, the man offers help, and I refuse.

I stand, grip the railing, pull myself up the three steps, and drop into the nearest seat with a grunt.

New guy lifts my wheelchair into the shuttle and locks the brakes.

Avoid Living in Moderation

Yes, I'm grateful to the generous and helpful people in the world.

I'm grateful to people who are willing to go outside their comfort zone and help a complete stranger in a wheelchair. In these moments I witness total compassion.

But, the look of compassion from the kindly stranger, the offered hand, the supporting lift, creates fewer opportunities for me to face challenges on my own.

When I walk up a few steps, unassisted, lift my wheelchair into my van, or push myself up a short hill, it may make you uncomfortable but I'm getting it done.

Any of these things alone may seem insignificant, but when you put them all together they add up to my sense of independence. And if I accept help for something I can do on my own, it feels like I am giving up a little of that independence.

Just Like Everyone Else

After the short ride to the terminal, I watch a sea of people at the ticket counter. I hear someone "moo" from the herd.

Kyle Bryant Airport

I fear the worst. I'll never make my flight.

Now, as I approach the security checkpoint, the lines are spilling out beyond the pillars and I can see people elbowing for position. I have about 5 minutes to spare.

I get the standard pat down.

Kyle Bryant TSA

This is my favorite line: "I am going to slide my hand up your inner thigh until I meet resistance."

Sure, do your thing, dude.

When I'm in a wheelchair, I'm supposed to be different than everyone else.

But I'm not.

It's the simple fact that I AM part of the herd--rookie travelers, overworked TSA employees, crying babies, and weary couples--that challenges me to deal with everyday obstacles.

Like everyone else.

The obstacles may seem larger, but they're not. They're just different. If I focus too much on those limitations, I resign to a smaller life.

I minimize my potential.

Sometimes it's NOT the journey that's important.

It's the destination.

Knowing that I can get there on my own terms, in my own time, gives me permission to live independently enough to fully experience the greatest potential in my life.

After I escape the grasp of the man with rubber gloves, I sprint down the slopes of terminal E. With forearms burning and sweat starting to bead, I arrive at my gate, where the attendants wait with a generous smile.

Santa's 2015 Travel Naughty-Nice List

William D. Chalmers   |   December 20, 2015    2:12 PM ET

I dreamt I was snowbound last night. But due to El Nino, it will not be a white Christmas.

A tad deflated, I set out reflecting on a year's worth of assorted travel adventures. There was a lot to cheer and jeer in 2015, with so many high peaks and low valleys, good encounters and stinkers too; I wondered, "What would Santa do?"

Well, of course, Santa would make one of his infamous Naughty/Nice Lists. (And yes, he would checked it twice!)

First the Nice List side of the ledger:

Paul Salopek, for keeping us adventurers inspired with his walk from Eden (Ethiopia) to South America (21,000 miles)...he's still got five years to go. Keep going Paul.
FAA, for finally implementing drone registration rules in time for the holidays. Now, about those guns!
The Global Scavenger Hunt... for 12 years of successfully holding the annual world travel championship. (April 15 - May 7, 2016)
Peru, for doing a great job in designating over 67 million acres for the new Andes-Amazon Conservation parkland. Mother Earth thanks you too!
Southwest Airlines, for remaining the last (US) airline not charging for a checked bag...and for making over 10% of your seats on planes available for awards travel.
Christopher Elliott, for tirelessly continuing to fight the good fight against travel-related rip offs. Thank you.
Marriott, for finally realizing that Wi-Fi ought to be free.
Anonymous flying vigilantes who continued to use Facebook and Instagram to shame fellow travelers online for their crude, nasty and uncivil flying transgressions.
Facebook for activating the "I'm Safe" button during the Paris attacks. Better late than never.
● The many people of Fiji, Melbourne, Bali, Abu Dhabi, Milan, Barcelona, Cartagena, Miami, Bruges, Cologne, London and Paris, who so sweetly took care of me this year traveling. Thank you all.
Four Points LAX and Radisson Blu Waterfront Hotel, Stockholm, for joining the growing ranks of 24-hour check-in/check-out policy hotels.
● Jason Steffan, an astrophysicist, for figuring out the most efficient airline boarding process. (FYI: Skipping rows.)
Google Maps, for helping us not get lost with off-line map viewing.
ViaSat, a satellite-based Wi-Fi provider, for finally challenging Gogo's bad inflight service--and costs!
Cathay Pacific, Singapore, Thai and Emirates Airlines, for knowing how to really treat all your customers.

Now to the Naughty List that would make Ebenezer Scrooge proud--lumps of coal for all:

JetBlue for joining the dark side of crappy nickel and dime domestic airlines. Et tu, Blue?
United, American & Delta, who through mergers and so-called "capacity discipline" (restricting flights and squeezing in more passengers) have boosted profits to record levels--despite a 35% drop in fuel costs.
● The big three legacy carrier cartel, yes, those three above again...for their hypocrisy wanting to change so-called open skies agreements with Emirates, Qatar and Etihad airlines, despite benefiting from $100 billion in government support since 2002. (When you can't compete, litigate!)
Virgin America whose plans are to push 24% more passengers into each cabin.
American Airlines who is changing their frequent flier program to a fare-based model. Boo. Hiss.
Airbnb for posting controversial ads across San Francisco during the Prop F political campaign.
Senator Diane Feinstein for leading the charge to make it tougher for Americans to travel abroad by pushing her tit-for-tat visa wavier changes which makes terrorists self-report themselves. Really!?
State Department, for excluding the two most notorious terrorists recruiting countries in the world--Saudi Arabia and Pakistan--from the visa wavier changes.
Getty Images for bullying and extorting travelers who blog or Facebook photos from Google Images that they claim they represent.
Allegiant Air, for being excessively fee crazy.
House Republicans for continually trying to divest in America's mass transit modernization, Amtrak specifically, by starving it. RIP fourteen passengers in Philadelphia and New York who died in needless crashes.
United Airlines, whose corrupt chairman and CEO stepped down in connection with an investigation into the airline's cozy dealings with New York-area airports.
Frontier Airlines, for replacing its toll-free customer service phone number with a toll-charge line.
Travel bloggers who don't tell you in sentence one that they are sponsored by or on the payroll of any travel-related entity they are touting in their writings. You know who you are!
Vladimir Putin for imposing a Turkish holiday ban on over 3 million Russians who visit Turkey annually...really Vlad!?
American Airlines for halting your Philadelphia-Tel Aviv route service, not because of profitability, but because of OneWorld Alliance considerations with Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian and Malaysian Airlines.
TSA for halting the line-shortening "managed inclusion" part of its Pre-Check program that worked well for all., who bought Travelocity, Orbitz and HomeAway in 2015, to add to their online sites, and Doesn't less competition lead to price fixing?
Thai Airways for falling in safety standards according to the FAA.
Yahoo! Travel for failing miserably with providing uninteresting travel content that is hard to figure out when the ads end and the content begin.
Iran, Brazil, Russia and Bhutan, for not making it easier for travelers to visit by offering tourist visas upon arrival. Come on folks, this is the 21st century.
Daesh (formerly known as ISIS or ISIL) for shamelessly destroying the ancient Baal Shamin temple in Palmyra, among other atrocities in 2015.
Gun-toting Americans traveling through airports with their guns! The TSA confiscates six a day--what's the deal folks?
Travel apps that taketh more than they giveth: Delta, United, Southwest, JetBlue, American Airlines, Travelocity, Hertz, more respectful and responsive folks!
Airlines who continually inflate (aka pad) their flight times so as to game their on-time statistics--a 60 minute flight between LAX and SFO is not 90 minutes, you're just late!
Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), for not doing enough to publicize the fact that the islands have a dengue fever issue.
Exhibitionist travelers for taking naked selfies in modest nations...shame on you!
Airline passengers that exceed their carry-on limits...a tad selfish don't you think!
● All travel-related selfie contests. Stop encouraging this, now please!
Travel PR flacks who continue to makeup ridiculous hype-inducing buzzwords, like: jetiquette, hipster holidays, nakation, fakeaction, briancation, 7-star hotel, spasafaria, brokepacking, integrated resorts and Seekenders. Please, stop it!
FTC for not calling it as it is by making hotels include their mandatory resort fees in the upfront advertised room rate price.
TSA who fails miserably in their lone job and allowing "Red Teams" to smuggle mock explosives and weapons through airport security checkpoints in 67 out of 70 tests last June.

That's my Travel Naughty/Nice list, who's on your 2015 list?

Speaking of nice, I want to thank Pauline Frommer, Randy Petersen and Johnny Jet for their input in helping me compile this year's Naughty/Nice list. Thank you all and Merry Christmas.

And The U.S. Airports With The Longest Security Lines Are...

Thrillist   |   December 17, 2015   10:00 AM ET

By: Matt Meltzer

Credit: Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski

Much like you think your city has the worst traffic and your bars are full of the worst people, you probably also think your local major airport has the worst security wait times. But as you shuffle behind the guy who forgot to remove his shoes, and curse yourself for not signing up for TSA Precheck, remember one thing: there's probably an airport that's worse. Unless you're flying out of LAX.

But to find out which of America's airports actually DO maintain the absolute slowest security lines, we teamed up with the folks at MiFlight, an app that tracks wait times at 150 airports worldwide. To the surprise of absolutely nobody (we were only half joking above), Los Angeles International tops the list with an average slog of 40 minutes. Read that again: FORTY MINUTES. Jaw-dropping to most, but probably imperceptible to a group of people use to spending two hours in traffic every day.

Just for kicks, MiFlight also gave us the longest recorded waits in aviation-security history at the ten slowest airports. The record... a staggering 3-hour-and-51-minute mess at New York's John F. Kennedy International. Yeah, travelers could have watched Escape from New York TWICE and still not have escaped.

Anyway, here is the full breakdown by average and longest wait.

More: The Best Airport Bars in America, So You Can Survive Your Layover

10. Chicago - Midway
Average: 8 minutes
Longest: 108 minutes

9. Philadelphia International
Average: 14 minutes
Longest: 151 minutes

7. Newark Liberty
Average: 15 minutes
Longest: 168 minutes

7. Washington - Dulles
Average: 15 minutes
Longest: 90 minutes

6. Dallas - Ft. Worth
Average: 20 minutes
Longest: 108 minutes

To find out which 5 airports have the longest security lines in the nation, get the full story at!

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Why Security Theater Isn't Keeping Us Safe

Samara Wolpe   |   December 14, 2015    5:20 PM ET

This morning as I ate breakfast, policemen swarmed through the adjacent street and the road was blocked off by yellow caution tape. They were all present for a small but suspicious package, perched precariously atop a car with an unidentified license plate which could not be matched with a California vehicle.

In pajamas my dad and I evacuated the house, taking a phone and house keys, glancing nervously over our shoulders at the empty street and the policemen who had assured us that a bomb squad was on their way.

Thirty minutes later we received a message that the 'suspicious package' was a lunch that a husband had packed for his wife who worked in the synagogue across the street. He left the lunch on top of her car so that he wouldn't disturb her. We returned to our house shaken, but the evacuated Temple members had all gone home.

As we settled back into our house and the street was once again opened to cars and pedestrians, I thought about how this would not have happened even two years ago. The culture of fear is built up to an unprecedented level. A few days before, I noticed armed guards standing outside the synagogue. In previous years the sanctuary had been easily accessible. Now it radiated a sense of hyper-awareness.

We would all like to believe that the heightened level of security primarily protects against terrorists and the mentally ill or violent individuals. However, the evidence that it does is scarce. In fact, heightened security measures are designed almost exclusively to create the illusion of safety, such as in the case of the TSA security measures taken after 9/11. In a popular youtube series called "Adam Ruins Everything," the ineffectiveness of what it dubs 'security theater' is uncovered. In essence, the showy security measures are more present to keep the illusion of protection than to actually guard against terrorists. And in case you were wondering, Jason Harrington, a former TSA agent, claims that the TSA does indeed drink the alcohol they confiscate at the checkpoint. The real precautions taken against airborne terrorist attacks are much more subtle, and include unseen measures such as added air marshals, heightened awareness, and intelligence agencies that work to stop attacks preemptively.

On one hand, it was reassuring to me that the police were so quick to respond to a suspicious package placed outside my house. On the other hand, I am also aware that the storm of heightened security measures are not what is actually keeping me safe. No matter how many armed guards stand ready to protect the occupants of the building, no protection is foolproof. The likelihood of a terrorist attack is extremely low, but if one were to happen, impressive-looking guns will not make much difference. What this show does accomplish is creating large, fearful spectacles out of small and insignificant stimuli.

If security theater makes you feel safe, that's completely fine. Even knowing all this, I still was grateful for the police's quick response. But for many, instead of creating a sense of safety, it instead promotes a fearful environment in which attacks are always on the horizon. The TSA checkpoint, instead of reassuring us that we are protected, reminds us that any of our fellow passengers could be harboring lethal plans. Instead of assuring temple congregants that they are protected from violent religious extremists, it reminds them that they are constantly under threat for being religious. And instead of making me feel protected from bomb threats, the presence of the police and the urgent evacuation made me feel unsafe in my own home.

Chloe Fox   |   December 11, 2015    5:17 PM ET

By and large, airplane travel is one of the most stressful, unpleasant routines we put ourselves through. 

While there isn't much you can do about crammed leg room or delayed flights, there is one major improvement you can make. It starts by getting yourself out of ridiculously long security lines. 

Fellow travelers, please, please do yourself a favor and sign up for TSA PreCheck

Enrolling in the known-traveler program is SO much easier than you think. Participants get to bypass the soul-sucking long security lines for a shorter, simpler security process. PreCheck travelers don't have to take laptops or fluids out of their bags and don't have to take off their shoes, belts or light jackets.

More than 1.5 million (brilliant) people have signed up for PreCheck, which is just a drop in the bucket of total airline passengers (662.3 million in 2014) that traveled on domestic flights.

If you think PreCheck is only for frequent fliers, that's simply not true. Even if you only fly a few times each year, imagine how much less stressful the process would be if you didn't show up at the airport faced with a line of disgruntled people snaking around the terminal? 

Parents traveling with children don't have to worry about juggling crying babies, meandering toddlers and laptop cases. Habitual procrastinators don't have to panic when they arrive at the airport ten minutes before boarding. And germophobes can relax as their shoes stay securely on their feet.

Another added bonus? You no longer have to stand in that intrusively intimidating body scanner. PreCheck passengers go through good ol' fashioned metal detectors

The process to enroll is easy, though there are some drawbacks to the program. In addition to the non-refundable $85 fee, PreCheck is not offered in all domestic airports. 

The good news is that the $85 fee is valid for five years, and the program is expanding to new airports. To enroll, complete an application online and schedule a time for an interview. The "interview" is very straightforward (present identification, scan your fingerprints), and doesn't take long at all. The non-refundable $85 fee is valid for five years and you can even pay with credit card. 

Next thing you know, you have a Known Traveler Number. By simply adding that number to your airline reservations, you'll get an all-powerful boarding pass with the special secret code on it.

Seriously, guys, why haven't you done this yet?

Also on HuffPost:

Meltdown at Williams-Sonoma

Ashley Underwood   |   December 11, 2015    1:35 AM ET

If single people were traitors being held at Guantanamo, effective torture devices would either be excessive screenings of Love Actually or forcing us to walk through Williams-Sonoma during the holiday season.

"I'll tell you anything you want to know, just please get me away from the wedding registry and the CuisineArt food processor that serves eight! "

During a shopping spree last week where I was continually asked if I needed things gift wrapped - "No thank you, it's just for me" - and received sad faces in return, I made the mistake of venturing into a Williams-Sonoma in Beverly Hills.

Inspired by familiar Christmas tunes and the aroma of fresh gingerbread, I grabbed a basket and began perusing a tower of assorted hot chocolates. The options were endless as I picked up the salted caramel flavor first, then exchanged it for peppermint and finally settled on 'traditional.' I prudently placed my first item in the basket, moving it to one side, with the intention of making room for all my other purchases. The adjacent display of marshmallows suggested it was sacrilege to make hot cocoa without its necessary accoutrement! I was drawn to the strawberry package and was about to hastily add it to my basket until I saw the calories, had a moment of reflection, and put it back on the shelf. I looked around the store for new excitement.

Personalized spatulas! I scanned the bucket looking for one with an 'A' on it. I didn't immediately find my letter so I began thinking of potential gifts I could give to friends as I picked up spatulas with the first letter of their names. I picked up one with a 'C' and thought, "Caroline would love this!" Oh, and an 'R'! My bachelor friend Rob would love this if he ever wants to bake cupcakes for his landlord once the restraining order expires. A sobering minute later, I realized there were no 'A' spatulas but my hope was restored when I saw a display of gold-monogrammed mugs. I spun the display around, searching for my 'A' with no luck. Was this a sign? Everyone named Ashley, Allison, Amanda, or Amy was already blissfully married and had wiped out the entire store of everything with my letter? A customer nudges me out of the way to pick up her spatula with a 'J.' She beamed, feeling special.

I noticed the EXIT sign illuminating in the distance and took a step in that direction. Oh! Distraction - an entire case of extra virgin olive oils and vinegars! I had been cooking with that $5.99, non-virginal, motor oil from Trader Joes for years. I was certain it was the reason that all of my cuisine came out subpar, which resulted in at least two ex boyfriends and a neighbor that came down with norovirus. Didn't I deserve the Tuscan trio holiday special with olive oil, truffle oil and balsamic vinegar? I turn over the price tag: $39.99! I stop for a moment to walk myself through the purchase. I envision coming home and placing my oil trio in the pantry next to the Centrum Vitamin C that is still unopened, then looking into my empty fridge and deciding to order delivery from Postmates. I pause a moment longer to cringe at the thought of that same delivery driver, Sarah, accepting my third order this week - an embarrassing frequency that caused me to lie and say I had the flu. I put down the olive oil trio and made my way to the back of the store.

I look into my basket and notice my lonely hot chocolate. There must be something else in here for me! A Vitamix, a Bundt cake pan, a fur throw for the sofa. I scan the store in a mild panic. Knives! Everyone needs knives. Single people use knives and I could justify their multi-functionality - a broccoli beheader and rapist defense weapon. The cheapest set is $500 and it's inside a locked cabinet, creating a traumatizing scenario for an impulse buyer. Patty, a sales assistant in a monogrammed apron, notices my dismay. "Can you help me with the knives?" I ask but I must have looked threatening since she scurried away to show a mother- daughter team a set of mixing bowls. I help myself to a peanut brittle sample and munch away while admiring the glass case of kitchen knives, looking like the horror movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Patty animatedly returns with her aggressive bowl cut, waving the 'P' spatula which makes me want to childishly rebel the way church services made me want to giggle uncontrollably or Algebra class made me want to pass notes to friends. I point to the chef's knife for $129.99 and ask, "Do you think this one is detectable by TSA?" Her head tilts to one side and her face contorts in a confused fashion the way a pug might look if you teased it about going for a walk. She ignores my joke and asks in a sweet voice, "So what are you going to be using this for?" I pondered an answer. "Well, I guess cutting vegetables for salads mostly, and possibly on overzealous parking enforcement officers." This is an unsatisfying answer for Patty. She nosily peers into my basket, sees the one can of hot chocolate and nods to herself. "You know we offer cooking classes here too." I pull my basket out of her view, feeling violated like a 13 year old who just caught her mother reading her diary entry. "Thanks, Patty but it's a bit out of my price range."

I returned to the hot chocolate tower and replaced my 'traditional' hot chocolate in defeat. I preferred the Ralphs brand anyway. As I maneuvered through moms with baby strollers toward the EXIT sign, I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirrored holiday wreath. Yes, I was single in a Williams Sonoma and I didn't need a blender for eight people but I chose to look on the bright side - my new haircut was a perfect match to my Bitmoji, a friend had just emailed me a Groupon for freezing our eggs and I was aging more gracefully than a Sade album. When I got back to my car I found a 20% off coupon for Bed Bath and Beyond, the home furnishing store for singles where I proudly purchased pocket mace, a fifth of bourbon and a cervical neck pillow for my eleventh screening of Love Actually.

TSA Taught Me Just How Fragile Freedom Is

Kim Badawi   |   December 9, 2015    4:05 PM ET

Read More: tsa

I hadn't been back to the United States in more than ten months and was quite stoked about being home for Thanksgiving. As an American born in Paris it has always come naturally to call both countries home. Working as a photojournalist on both sides of the pond and now in South America my partner and I were glad to take this little leap over the equator to visit family for a reunion in Houston, Texas.

We arrived at the airport in Rio de Janeiro more than three hours early. Sitting at McDonald's in front of our gate we shared a hamburger in preparation for our US experience. My partner is Brazilian and had never been in the US during the holidays. Upon boarding I was selected for security screening; with Brazilian cheese bread in one hand and iced maté tea the other, I joked with security officers in Portuguese about being dressed in shorts and flipflops, as summer in Brazil is already well underway. The American Airlines employees replied, "We don't decide who to screen, they tell us." Thinking nothing of it, we boarded the nearly empty plane, grabbed five seats side-by-side, chatted a little before watching the beginning of Minions then fell asleep for the next seven hours.

On arrival in US, my partner went in line with other non-residents and I went to scan my US passport at one of the automated machines. After getting my receipt marked with a giant X by the border police I was invited for yet a secondary screening in a larger waiting room.

I've never been to Miami, and was impressed to see that everyone there spoke Spanish, or was coming from a Central or South American destination. Most people waiting with me were there either to clarify something on their immigration form or because they had flat omitted something. I, however, truly did not understand what I was doing there. I saw no one with there holding a blue passport.

Once my name was called, I was asked about my reasons for being in Brazil, and to hand over my smart phone. I explained that I had a four-year visa on my French passport and work as a foreign correspondent for Le Monde in Rio. After showing my French passport, their first reaction was, "When exactly did you become American?" I further explained that I am American and that my parents are American citizens. They followed that by asking me at what age did I become American. I again explained that I am an American born abroad and that my parents had registered me as American at birth, in Paris.

After minutes of flipping through the pages of my passports, I was asked, "Why do you have so many Arabic stamps in your passports?" I explained that previous to living in Brazil, I had worked for the past four years as a correspondent in the Middle East for many new outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and CNN. After showing proof of publications and verification of my whereabouts, travels, and reporting, I was asked yet again the same questions with specific dates and locations. It was obvious that nothing I was asked could not have been verified online or by publication date. In the meantime I was concerned about my partner, who I imagined was waiting for me at baggage claim. I asked if this would take long, and I was told "no" and they were "finishing up." Little did I know that these were words I would be hear again over the course of the next 10 hours.

Between sessions I was asked informally about my position on the refugee crisis, my political inclinations and all this amid the two televisions blasting from two corners of the room a special report on "Muslims in France," "terrorism" and "the Syrian refugee crisis."

At least three or four hours had passed. It was clear at this point that I wasn't going to be making my connecting flight. I asked if I could somehow contact my partner and tell her to wait for me since we weren't going to make the flight. I was refused any communication with the outside. This did seem inconsistent as other people in the waiting room had their phones in their possession. I grew increasingly annoyed, and thought to myself, "Are they allowed to do this? What are my rights exactly?" I was repeatedly called to the desk to verify random bits about my whereabouts, my family, people I may or may not know and then was asked to sit down again. Every time I wouldn't an officer would come and ask me to kindly to quit pacing and sit down again. I eventually asked the officer who was handling my case and whether I should call a lawyer, and his reply was that I was not under arrest, but simply being detained for investigation.

After about five or six hours, I was told that the second part of the investigation was to search all my belongings. I welcomed the officers to open all my bags and even search me if they would like. Going through my hand luggage they found little carved wooden saints bearing crosses and doves which I explained were souvenirs for loved ones. Then, one of the officers backed up and said, "Oh my, how disrespectful of me, I didn't ask you if you needed time to pray. Would you like to go pray now?" This wasn't the first time the US immigration police had tiptoed their way around the question. I calmly replied that I didn't, and if we could just go forward with the procedure and protocol so that I could be on my way. But the nightmare was far from over.

Just as I thought the officers were going to return my passport and iPhone to me, I was asked to enter my password into my phone so that they could access my personal information, my photos, conversations and applications. This reminded me of past experiences in other parts of the world where I was offered either to submit to such an invasions of privacy or sit in a police car. And so I entered my password.

In the name of security, I watched as two officers swiped through my selfies, intimate photos of the person we had until now called my partner, and through random contacts on my phone. I felt violated, but tried to stand tall. That was until they came across a series of WhatsApp messages and interviews I conducted last month while in São Paulo working with Syrian refugees for a photo report. I explained to them that the interviews were confidential, that they were violating the rights of my sources, and that as a journalist I wouldn't have to justify their words as mine.

At this point I was asked to take my belongings and return back through those heavy glass doors, back through the waiting room to sit right in front of a large mirror with officers on the other side. And that is where I would spend the next six hours.

I sat as the so-called immigration police, or Homeland Security agents, rifled their way through the past 10 years of my contacts, professional conversations, and private ones.

Having to account for every post, utterance or other person's internet rant, the fragility of freedom begin to dawn on me. I had only just arrived in the land of the brave that very morning and somehow I felt that my past freedoms had come at a price.

Over the next few hours I was asked whether I recognized certain names or not. Some I did, and some I didn't. At one point I was asked to identify someone based on their Facetime profile. "You said you didn't know anyone in Miami, so who is sending you these messages?" Neither I nor Homeland Security knew at this point that these were messages from people that my partner had begged to use their phone to send me a message, regular American citizens with local Miami numbers, who were now themselves being scrutinized.

In one particular situation I was asked why I had stated in a personal correspondence months prior that I was, "an Arab too" when corresponding with a friend. The few officers around me, some wearing bulletproof vests, rolled their eyes and coughed up, "You are Arab? We didn't know."

Sitting in the same chair with apple sauce in one hand and tuna spread in the other I began to shiver. Was I to account for everything in my phone? Indeed, I was. Some of the refugees I had interviewed for my photo story had described their anger with the world's disregard for daily atrocities in Syria and the world's focus on the victims of the Paris bombings. How was to I justify that? When asked about the Paris attacks, I answered how profoundly upset the events had gotten me because, after all, Paris was the city where I was born and raised. The officers neglected this by asking once again, "But wait a minute, I thought you're American?"

As if somehow that made it clear that I couldn't possibly be all-American, French or Middle Eastern for that matter at the same time. That we should all just choose one side, one country, one camp.

I have always vouched that I know no one with violent ideas or intentions, either in person or in social networks. I am proud to say, even after this ten hour ordeal, that it still stands true. I have always valued creativity and freedom of expression as I still believe the pen to be mightier than the sword. I was eventually released, handed back my passport, my telephone and my belongings. Exiting this Kafka-esque inferno I searched desperately for a white phone on the wall and paged my partner. For many moments prior I had feared I may never see again.

Along she came, petrified, obviously shaken and hesitant. She immediately confessed that she hadn't even been sure it was me who had paged her. She had spent the past ten hours wandering Miami International Airport begging any and every airport security guard, airline officials or other travelers to help her. On nearly every occasion she was told that I was not in custody, or that she should probably take her next flight to Houston, leave the airport or go back to where she came from. One immigration employee, whom we will not name, who knew that I was in custody, actually told her that I wasn't at the airport at all, and I had not taken the flight from Rio to Miami. Looking at him dead in the eye she waved my boarding pass for Miami to Houston, and his reply was that she did not know who I was and that I was involved in some "terrible things." She naturally began to fear for herself as immigration officials began asking her for personal information. In a short moment she had experienced what she calls in Portuguese "terror." Not by the hands of some radical group, but a foreign country I call home.

Reunited after nearly 24 hours after having left Rio, we boarded a night flight to Houston where we both slept on each other shoulders exhausted.

This morning we were greeted by a bright sun in chilly Texas on this November day. So blessed to be back in the US for Thanksgiving day with friends and family, faced with the choice to let it slide, or to make this very statement. Freedom is just this, the choice to let go or the courage to speak up. In the words of Joni Mitchell, "You don't know what you got till it's gone."

Kim Badawi
November 23rd, 2015