The Militant Libertarian

I'm pissed off and I'm a libertarian. What else you wanna know?

Saturday, July 11, 2009


by Bonzer Wolf

The Federal Protective Service (FPS) is a component of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE was established in March 2003 as the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. ICE is comprised of five integrated divisions with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities.

The Government Accountability Office told a congressional panel Wednesday that its investigators were able to carry bomb-making materials through 10 security checkpoints monitored by the Federal Protection Service, which guards nearly 9,000 facilities throughout the country.

According to preliminary findings of a GAO study, the investigators assembled the bomb components -- which were in concentrations low enough that they wouldn't explode -- in restrooms, put the devices in briefcases and walked freely around the buildings.

In some cases, the bathrooms were locked and building employees opened them.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, called the hearing after learning of the GAO's initial findings. He called the security lapses "the broadest indictment of an agency of the federal government that I've heard."

The FPS has 1,236 employees and more than 13,000 contracted security guards. The 67 private companies that employ those guards are responsible for their supervision, training and equipment.

Although the specifics were classified, the GAO said, the devices involved in the tests included two parts -- a liquid explosive and a low-yield detonator -- that could be purchased at stores or over the Internet for less than $150.

Investigators placed their briefcases on conveyor belts, but the guards and X-ray machines failed to detect anything suspicious, the GAO said. At three of the 10 security checkpoints tested, guards were not looking at the X-ray screens as the bomb-making materials passed through.

The tests were carried out in four cities in major metropolitan areas. Eight of the 10 buildings were government-owned. They included the district offices of a U.S. senator and a U.S. representative, as well as agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, of which the FPS is a part, and the State and Justice departments. The tests were conducted in April and May, and only those 10 sites were tested.

The GAO would not identify the buildings or their locations publicly but said they were randomly selected "Level 4" facilities, which house more than 450 federal employees, have a high volume of public contact and could be considered a "likely target." Level 4 is second only to Level 5, which includes the White House and the CIA headquarters.

The GAO's full report is not expected until September. Among the initial findings:

* In one region, the FPS has not provided the required eight hours of X-ray or magnetometer training to its 1,500 guards since 2004.

* In another region, 62% of contract guards had expired certifications in at least one of the following areas: weapons, CPR, first aid and baton use.

* At one high-security facility, an armed guard was found asleep at his post after taking the painkiller Percocet.

* In one major city, an improperly trained guard sent an infant in a carrier through an X-ray machine.

* A guard who was supposed to be standing watch was caught using government computers to further his for-profit adult website.

* A guard failed to recognize or did not properly X-ray a box containing handguns at the loading dock of a facility.

Gary Schenkel, the FPS director, accepted responsibility for the findings but noted challenges his agency has experienced since he arrived in 2007, including budget constraints. In response to the GAO findings, he said the FPS needed to be "much more involved" in standardizing the agency and its training procedures in all 50 states.

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  • At 11:36 AM, July 11, 2009 , Blogger Kent McManigal said...

    I've always wondered what would happen if there were a piece of aluminum foil cut into a gun silhouette taped under the cover of a library book that went through the X-ray machines at the airport. Or, if every book in a library had that done to them....
    Would they show up? Would they look like a geal gun under the X-ray? Would the screeners even notice?

  • At 12:25 PM, July 11, 2009 , Blogger Militant Libertarian said...

    Here are two scenarios, one pre and one post 9/11, both of which are true events that actually happened.

    Pre-9/11, I was going through security to get on a flight to Reno from Salt Lake City. I had a Leatherman Wave tool on my belt. I'd forgotten about it, since I carried it everywhere.

    At the security check, it set off the metal detector. I took off my belt (and the Leatherman) and put them into a bucket to go through and stepped through the scan again.

    I came out clean and the security guard just asked "is that a multi-tool." I said "yes" and he handed it to me and I strapped it back on.

    That Leatherman Wave (which I still have) has 2 knives on it that are nearly 3" long (each).

    Post-9/11, I was getting on a flight from SLC to the LA area. I was carrying a very small concealed pistol (S&W Centennial 9mm). I carried the pistol so often and it was so small, that I would easily forget I had it. As I did this time.

    I went through security, oblivious to the pending felony in my waistband, and set off the metal detector. I immediately knew what it was (having emptied my pockets and consciously put aforementioned Leatherman into my checked luggage).

    Of course, there was no damn way I was going to pull out that pistol and say "woops." I'd be tackled, tased, and probably shot at.

    So I feigned ignorance and they waved me through to try again. I took off my shoes and double-checked my pockets and went through again.

    Set it off, of course. They then took me to the side and waved the wand around. It went off at my crotch area (gun clipped to front waistband). The screener looked at my belt, said "it's probably that buckle." And pointed me to my stuff at the x-ray booth.

    I put everything back on, waved to the screeners, and got on my plane. Gun still on me all the way to LA.

    On the flight back, of course, it was nowhere to be found.

    In both cases, I had walked through security with very obviously deadly weapons.

    That last incident happened shortly before I finally just said "no more flying."

    The last flight I took was a couple of years ago from Denver to SLC on a quick puddle-jump. It literally took longer to get through security than it did to fly from one point to another.

    Coming back from SLC to Wyoming, I rented a car. Screw the flying.


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