Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Woman Convicted of Groping Screener

The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 26, 2005; 9:26 PM

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A woman who was upset over being searched bodily at an airport was convicted Tuesday of assaulting a security screener by grabbing the federal officer's breasts.

A federal jury heard the case against retired teacher Phyllis Dintenfass, who also allegedly shoved the screener during the search at the Outagamie County Regional Airport in Appleton in September 2004.

Dintenfass, 62, faces up to a year in federal prison and $100,000 in fines. The judge set sentencing for Nov. 1.

On Monday, Transportation Security Administration screening supervisor Anita Gostisha testified that Dintenfass activated metal detectors at a checkpoint, and she heard Dintenfass say she thought the problem was bobby pins and barrettes in her hair.

Gostisha said she took the woman to another screening area, where she used a handheld wand. Gostisha said she was following protocol when she also performed a "limited pat-down search."

Gostisha said she was using the back of her hands to search the area underneath Dintenfass' breasts when the woman lashed out at her.

"She said `How would you like it if I did that to you?' and slammed me against the wall," Gostisha testified. "She came at me and grabbed my breasts and squeezed them."

Distenfass claimed she acted in self-defense.

"I said, 'What are you doing? No one's done that to me before,'" she said. "And she kept going ... for what felt like an interminably long time."

Dintenfass denied shoving Gostisha, but admitted putting her hands on the agent's breasts.

"I was mortified that I had done that," she said. "I was reacting to what felt like an absolute invasion of my body."

U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic said TSA officers perform a vital service and are entitled to protection from assault.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Who's Watching the Watch List?
By John Graham

My name is on a list of real and suspected enemies of the state and I can't find out what I'm accused of or why, let alone defend myself.

Heading for Oakland from Seattle to see my grandkids last week, the Alaska Airlines check-in machine refused to give me a boarding pass. Directed to the ticket counter, I gave the agent my driver's license and watched her punch keys at her computer.

Frowning, she told me that my name was on the national terrorist No Fly Watch List and that I had to be specially cleared to board a plane. Any plane. Then she disappeared with my license for 10 minutes, returning with a boarding pass and a written notice from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) confirming that my name was on a list of persons "who posed, or were suspected of posing, a threat to civil aviation or national security."

No one could tell me more than that. The computer was certain.

Back home in Seattle, I called the TSA's 800 number, where I rode a merry-go-round of pleasant recorded voices until I gave up. Turning to the TSA web site, I downloaded a Passenger Identity Verification form that would assist the TSA in "assessing" my situation if I sent it in with a package of certified documents attesting to who I was.

I collected all this stuff and sent it in. Another 20 minutes on the phone to the TSA uncovered no live human being at all, let alone one who would tell me what I'd presumably done to get on The List. Searching my mind for possible reasons, I've been more and more puzzled. I used to work on national security issues for the State Department and I know how dangerous our country's opponents can be. To the dismay of many of my more progressive friends, I've given the feds the benefit of the doubt on homeland security. I tend to dismiss conspiracy theories as nonsense and I take my shoes off for the airport screeners with a smile.

I'm embarrassed that it took my own ox being gored for me to see the threat posed by the Administration's current restricting of civil liberties. I'm being accused of a serious--even treasonous--criminal intent by a faceless bureaucracy, with no opportunity (that I can find) to refute any errors or false charges. My ability to earn a living is threatened; I speak on civic action and leadership all over the world, including recently at the US Air Force Academy. Plane travel is key to my livelihood.

According to a recent MSNBC piece, thousands of Americans are having similar experiences. And this is not Chile under Pinochet. It's America. My country and yours.

With no real information to go on, I'm left to guess why this is happening to me. The easiest and most comforting guess is that it's all a mistake (a possibility the TSA form, to its credit, allows). But how? I'm a 63-year-old guy with an Anglo-Saxon name. I once held a Top Secret Umbra clearance (don't ask what it is but it meant the FBI vetted me up the whazoo for months). And since I left the government in 1980, my life has been an open book. It shouldn't be hard for the government to figure out that I'm not a menace to my country.

If they do think that, I can't see how. Since 1983 I've helped lead the Giraffe Heroes Project, a nonprofit that moves people to stick their necks out for the common good. In the tradition of Gandhi, King and Mandela, that can include challenging public policies people think are unjust. In 1990, the Project's founder and I were honored as "Points of Light" by the first President Bush for our work in fostering the health of this democracy. I've just written a book about activating citizens to get to work on whatever problems they care about, instead of sitting around complaining.

I'm also engaged in international peacemaking, working with an organization with a distinguished 60-year record of success in places ranging from post-war Europe to Africa. Peacemakers must talk to all sides, so over the years I've met with Cambodians, Sudanese, Palestinians, Israelis and many others. You can't convince people to move toward peaceful solutions unless you understand who they are.

As I said, I'm not into conspiracy theories. But I can't ignore this administration's efforts to purge and punish dissenters and opponents. Look, for example, at current efforts to cleanse PBS and NPR of "anti-administration" news. But I'm not Bill Moyers and the Giraffe Heroes Project is not PBS. We're a small operation working quietly to promote real citizenship.

Whether it's a mistake or somebody with the power to hassle me really thinks I am a threat, the stark absence of due process is unsettling. The worst of it is that being put on a list of America's enemies seems to be permanent. The TSA form states:

The TSA clearance process will not remove a name from the Watch Lists. Instead this process distinguishes passengers from persons who are in fact on the Watch Lists by placing their names and identifying information in a cleared portion of the Lists.

Which may or may not, the form continues, reduce the airport hassles.

Huh? My name is on a list of real and suspected enemies of the state and I can't find out what I'm accused of or why, let alone defend myself. And I'm guilty, says my government, not just until proven innocent or a victim of mistaken identity--but forever.

Sure, 9/11 changed a lot. Tougher internal security measures (like thorough screenings at airports and boundary crossings) are a dismal necessity. But, in protecting ourselves, we can't allow our leaders to continue to create a climate of fear and mistrust, to destroy our civil liberties and, in so doing, to change who we are as a nation. What a victory that would be for our enemies, and what a betrayal of real patriots and so many in the wider world who still remember this country as a source of inspiration and hope.

I don't think it's like Germany in 1936 -- but, look at Germany in 1930. Primed by National Socialist propaganda to stay fearful and angry, Germans in droves refused to see the right's extreme views and actions as a threat to their liberties.

And don't forget that frog. You know that frog. Dropped into a pot of boiling water, he jumps out to safety. But put him into a pot of cold water over a steady flame, he won't realize the danger until it's too late to jump.

So how hot does the water have to get? When the feds can rifle through your library reading list? When they can intimidate journalists? When a government agency can keep you off airplanes without giving you a reason? When there's not even a pretense of due process? We're not talking about prisoners at Guantanamo; this is you and me. Well, after last week, it sure as hell is me and it could be you, next.

Oh, yes -- Washington State just refused to renew my driver's license online, a privilege given others. I had to wait in line at the DMV before a computer decided I could drive home. This conspiracy theory debunker smells a connection to the Watch List.

I'm mobilizing everything I've got to challenge the government on this issue, in a country that I love and have served. Whatever your politics, it's your fight too. Yes, there needs to be a list of the bad guys, coordinated among the security agencies with a need-to-know. But we must demand that the government make public its criteria for putting people on this list--and those reasons can't include constitutionally protected dissent from government policies.

The feds can't be allowed to throw names on the list without first doing simple checks for mistaken identity. And no one's name should be added to the list, or kept on it, without a formal, open explanation of charges and the opportunity to challenge and disprove them. This assault on civil liberties must not stand--not for me, not for anybody.
ACLU Challenges 'No-Fly' Data
Seven people lead suit charging TSA of mishandling information.

Emily C. Kumler, Medill News Service

WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union has filed the first nationwide class-action lawsuit challenging the U.S. "no-fly" list, questioning the accuracy of its data and methodology.

The list is one of the most contentious by-products of the post-9/11 security wave. The Transportation Security Administration compiles the names of people who may be security risks in air travel.

The seven individuals who are lead plaintiffs in the suit claim they have been repeatedly humiliated, delayed, and even threatened with indefinite detention at U.S. airports. The ACLU has assembled among the plaintiffs a member of the military, a retired Presbyterian minister, and a college student.

No Exoneration
Chief among their complaints is that they can never seem to clear their name and escape the list. The ACLU suit notes that several had even obtained letters from the TSA stating that they were not a threat, but were still subject to delays and searches.

"There is no way to get off the no-fly list," says David Fathi, a plaintiff and ACLU National Prison Project senior counsel. "They have designated me a permanent suspect."

The ACLU contends the TSA's system of identifying individuals who pose a threat to air travel is severely flawed. The group says, for example, that many innocent people with the name David Nelson are placed on the no-fly list, including a star of the 1950s TV sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet as well as one of the plaintiffs.

Fathi says there is no way to know why he was placed on the list. He says he and other plaintiffs have had no luck in finding out why they were included.

After landing on a no-fly list, Fathi says, he has been interrogated, escorted by police, and embarrassed, but was always eventually allowed on the plane.

Inconsistency Charged

While the ACLU opposes the list, it also criticizes the TSA for failing to enforce its own regulations--a charge the TSA vigorously denies.

"No-fly means that you won't get a boarding pass. If you were on that list, you wouldn't get on the plane," says Andrea Fuentes, a TSA spokesperson. "TSA is confident that the systems in place stand the legal test and we are secure in the accuracy and need for the no-fly list. There are issues of misidentification, which is a customer service violation, not a constitutional one."

The TSA would not comment on the ACLU suit.

The agency highlighted the success of its efforts before a House subcommittee last year.
"The combination of our screening force and enhanced technology has resulted in almost 800 arrests at screening checkpoints," said Admiral James Loy, an administrator with the
Transportation Security Administration, in a statement made to a House subcommittee on aviation.

But privacy and civil liberties groups have been wary from the start of TSA efforts to screen and categorize airline passengers.
TSA, 1… Zippo lighter camera, 0

Airport security would not allow this guy pass a security checkpoint with his camera. Am I alone in thinking that it is completely idiotic to not allow a camera on an airplane because it looks like a lighter?

It gets better. When he walked up to security with the camera, he showed it to the TSA guard and told him what it was. He was instructed that he could take the camera but not the case. What??? Because the case could do what exactly? I can imagine this conversation going down something like this:

Man: Hi, this is a camera, see?
TSA: Sorry you can’t take that on the plane.
Man: What? But why not, it’s just a camera.
TSA: It looks like a lighter.
Man: But it’s not, see..the camera comes out of the case and everything.
TSA: Alright, then you can take the camera…but not the case.
Man: I can’t take an empty metal case?
TSA: Nope, looks too much like a lighter.
Man: But it’s not….and it can’t start fires, because it’s hollow.
TSA: But it looks like it could.
Man: Your not too bright are you?
TSA: Sir, calm down, and put the lighter down before you hurt someone.
TSA: Security, I need backup, we have a hostile man at the security checkpoint and he’s waving around what looks like a lighter.
TSA "plane people are clueless and planless"

“Well, they should have spent their time on accountability and getting, you know, high-quality people to run that company because — or that operation. When you have a former press secretary running maritime security, you got a real problem.

“We need to have credibility. We also have to have a plan of going forward. And taking Bic lighters off of airplanes clearly shows these plane people are clueless and planless.”

—Michael Boyd, president, the Boyd Group, an aviation and security consulting firm; in response to being asked what theTransportation Security Administration should’ve doneinstead of deciding four books of matches will be allowedon airliners, but not lighters. On MSNBC’s“Countdown With Keith Olbermann,” March 1, 2005.
• • •
Airport Security Gets Another 'F'

In January and February, CBS News went undercover to test security at major American airports. We took lead-lined film bags, which block X-rays, through checkpoints. Steve Elson, who used to test checkpoint security for the Federal Aviation Administration, helped us with our tests. "When the bag goes through the X-ray, there's a big black blob," says Elson. "They're impossible to miss and yet they just continually let it go."

Screeners could not clearly see what was in our carry-ons and should have searched them, because a weapon could have been hidden in or under the film bags. But 70 percent of screeners failed to check or even detect the film bags. At the time, the Transportation Security Administration blamed a broken system. Congress ordered the federal government to take over all airport checkpoints by Nov. 19. But with two months to go, of the seven airports we re-visited, Baltimore was the only one where federal employees screen all passengers.

At the rest, private companies -- under federal supervision -- still handle some, if not all, of the screening. They are not government employees and have not received the same training. The new head of the TSA, James Loy, says security has improved. "It has changed dramatically for the better," says Loy. "I am very impressed with the diligence of the screeners that are in place today." To determine if screening really has improved, CBS News went back to the same airports using the same kind of X-ray blocking film bags, and we got the same results. Once again, 70 percent of the time, those film bags went undetected or unopened. In Los Angeles, screeners actually did worse. Last time, they found and checked our film bags 50 percent of the time.

Last week, they missed all of them. We'd also been detected 50 percent of the time at New York's LaGuardia. On this latest round, which Elson also helped us with, screeners failed every test. "LaGuardia was a typical day," says Elson. "You go through and you think there's no way to miss this, and yet we just generally sailed right through the checkpoint." In two incidents, screeners did find one film bag, but missed a second one that a CBS News producer was also carrying. "They had the idea, but they didn't carry it through to completion," says Elson. "Therefore, they failed." Screeners at Atlanta and Washington's Reagan National didn't check any of our film bags six months ago, and again they missed all of them this time. None of the screeners at New York's Kennedy airport stopped us last time. That happened again in four out of five tests. There were some success stories. Screeners in Ft. Lauderdale stopped us and checked the film bags six months ago and did everything right again last week.

In Baltimore, all screeners are federal employees. Earlier this year, the film bags went undetected every time. Last week, our film bags were searched every time. "This is the first time they've ever, on any of the things we've done, (that) they've ever opened the bag and done it successfully," says Elson. "And they did it very well today. "I hope that's the wave of the future." But a year after Sept. 11, Elson is still worried. "They're missing all kinds of things," says Elson. "That's the frightening part." Things like guns.

A checkpoint supervisor at Atlanta's airport was fired last week after a woman boarded a plane with a loaded weapon and extra ammunition. She was caught at another airport, by the new layer of pre-boarding screening in gate areas, a security requirement the government may eliminate for passenger convenience.
Learn from the TSA’s shortcomings
By David M. Primo and Roger W. Cobb

At the conclusion of “The Maltese Falcon,” Humphrey Bogart’s character, in discussing a crime, says “somebody has to take the fall.” That maxim has been borne out in the area of aviation security over the past three years. In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, the focus was on the private security companies responsible for screening baggage and passengers. Airline security has since been federalized, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is now the regulatory agency everybody loves to hate. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) has likened it to a “Soviet-style centralized bureaucracy.” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) compared tests for new screeners to something that Jay Leno’s scriptwriters would pen.

The acronym TSA has been said to mean “Try Standing Around” or “Taking Scissors Away.” What makes the animus all the more remarkable is that the agency is little more than two years old.The obvious solution when something goes wrong is to blame the people who are carrying out a policy directive. And much of the criticism of the TSA — that it inefficiently allocates screeners, is wasteful in its spending and has no coherent plan for aviation security — is valid. Since its inception, the TSA has consistently been playing defense with vague statements that existing problems are being addressed and improvements are being made. But what about those who created the agency in the first place?

Lost in all of this is that the TSA is a product of the U.S. Congress, which passed the legislation creating the agency by vote margins usually reserved for motions to create National Happiness Day or some other such innocuous measure. Part of the blame for the TSA’s problems must rest on those members of Congress who voted to create the agency, all 410 representatives and the entire Senate (since the conference report went through in that body on a voice vote).

Terrorism has always been a threat in the not-so-friendly skies, but Congress did little to protect aviation until tragedy struck and it had no choice but to act. Dramatic events spur governments into action, but typically the responses are poorly planned, and ineffective. Exhibit A is aviation security in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Congress gave the TSA the impossible task of designing itself from scratch and simultaneously restructuring how the skies are protected. Now that the TSA has for the most part failed, members of Congress — on both sides of the aisle — are quick to cast blame.And admittedly, the

TSA is an easy target, with contractors billing the government for luxury hotels during recruitment trips and its first head lavishly furnishing his office at taxpayer expense. Perhaps this is why most media coverage of the TSA focuses on its failings and gives members of Congress a free pass. But we suggest that members of Congress ought to examine their own actions on aviation security.

There are two possible explanations for the problems in the TSA’s design. The first is that certain members of Congress wanted the TSA’s centralized structure to fail so that a more rational decentralized structure could subsequently be implemented. This may be one explanation for the provision in the law allowing airports to move back to private screeners in late 2004.

The second is that the TSA was created hastily because Congress ignored the issue of aviation security until the Sept. 11 attacks. Take your pick: Machiavellian politics or hurried policymaking. Disasters are precisely the worst time to implement new regulations. Emotions are running high, and the goal is to pass something — anything — to satisfy the political pressures of the moment.

That type of reactive regulation is a more general problem in aviation politics, which is more disaster-driven than other policy areas. We agree with Mica and others that reforms are necessary to improve aviation security. But we hope, perhaps naively, that the TSA’s failures represent a wake-up call that new agencies should not be created in the heat of the moment.
Government reports highlight problems in airline safety
A death knell for passenger profiling?

By Anita Ramasastry

(FindLaw) -- Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, improving aviation security has been a priority for the federal government. Among the most controversial proposals to address it is the Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System II (CAPPS II).
CAPPS II is designed to use commercial and government data to verify passenger identity, and to decide whether individual fliers pose security risks. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the agency tasked with implementing this program.

The program was initially intended to detect terrorists and keep them off airplanes. In August 2003, however, TSA announced that CAPPS II would also serve as a law enforcement tool to identify individuals wanted for violent crimes.

Based on privacy concerns that I have discussed in a previous column, Congress voted to block funding for CAPPS II unless the TSA could satisfy eight criteria relating to privacy, security, accuracy and oversight. (TSA may, at this time, move forward in testing CAPPS II, however.) In addition, Congress also asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to conduct a review of CAPPS II to determine whether it met the relevant criteria.
This February, that reportcame in. And it concluded that CAPPS II has numerous problems, as I will explain.
Then on March 17, a second reportwas released by the DHS. It confirmed that the TSA was involved in the transfer of JetBlue Airways passenger information to a Department of Defense subcontractor, Torch Concepts, for use in a data mining study (which I also discussed in an earlier column). Moreover, the DHS report found that, "The TSA employees involved acted without appropriate regard for individual privacy interests or the spirit of the Privacy Act of 1974."
As these two reports suggest, and as I will argue in this column, CAPPS II should not go forward unless it incorporates comprehensive further measures to protect privacy and to provide security for the data in the government's possession.

How CAPPS II would work
In 1998, a passenger risk assessment program was implemented as an additional measure to help prevent a terrorist attack on passenger aircraft. In the wake of September 11, Congress directed the TSA to improve that system. The result was CAPPS II.
After receiving fierce criticism of its first proposal for CAPPS II, the TSA on August 1, 2003 issued a new notice regarding the program. The notice informed the public that TSA intended to begin testing CAPPS II, and attempting to address some of the criticism the agency had received.
According to the notice, CAPPS II will proceed through four steps:
(1) Data collection: Airlines will be required to collect certain data from every passenger, and pass it along to the TSA. Upon purchasing an airplane ticket, passengers will have to provide four pieces of information: their name, address, telephone number, and date of birth.
(2) Identity authentication: The TSA will send that information to commercial data services, which will then send back an "authentication score" intended to indicate "a confidence level in that passenger's identity." The idea is that these data services will figure out if we are who we say we are.
But that raises some questions: What if a person's information is incorrect, or his name is similar to that of a criminal? What are tolerable false positive and false negative rates when it comes to verifying identity -- and how can mistakes be corrected? Or, what if a person -- because of her age, or lack of income or credit history, is not present in these databases to have her identity verified?
(3) Risk assessment: The TSA will then perform a risk assessment for each passenger, drawing upon law enforcement, intelligence, or other government databases. Each person will be scored as either an "acceptable," "unknown," or "unacceptable" risk.
Again, this is troubling -- the TSA notice does not make clear the criteria for such assessments, and much of the data relied upon may be confidential data, so that a passenger may not ever known why he or she has been deemed an "unacceptable" risk.
And again, what are acceptable false positive and false negative rates -- and how can mistakes be corrected? Also, what kind of data should be collected, and how long should the data be retained? Who will have access to the data and for what purposes?
(4) Enforcement of "unacceptable" and "unknown" risk assessments: Each passenger's risk score would then be forwarded to airport security personnel. Those who score "unknown" would be subjected to heightened scrutiny. Those who receive an "unacceptable" risk assessment will be denied boarding passes, and law enforcement authorities will interview them to decide whether they can board the plane.

The GAO Report: TSA gets failing grades
The GAO report found that as of January 2004, the TSA had not adequately addressed seven of Congress's eight concerns.
Why did TSA fail so spectacularly? In part, the GAO noted, because it failed to timely test the CAPSS II program. According to the report, the TSA had not effectively managed and monitored CAPPS II's development and operation.
In addition, according to the report, the TSA had also failed to protect passenger privacy; address the accuracy of the data relied upon; create a system to address erroneous labeling of passengers; prevent abuse; or create security procedures. (Such procedures are necessary to prevent hackers from compromising the data used in the screening process.)
According to the report, TSA has also failed to adequately "stress test" CAPPS II to see if it even works. Does it really spot "high risk" passengers? Does it waste resources with false high-risk assessments? We don't know. So even those who would willingly sacrifice some privacy for greater security ought to be very disappointed with the TSA and CAPPS II.
Another reason CAPPS II may not be effective is identity theft. If someone else can steal your identity, then verification of who you actually are may be highly problematic. And as we all know, today, with the Internet, identity theft is all too common.

Data errors

As noted above, CAPPS II will incorporate both government and commercial data. Each kind of data has its own flaw: Commercial data is often error-ridden. And government data is secret, and may be error-ridden, for all we know.
Erroneous-but-secret government data probably can't be challenged at all. The CAPPS II Privacy Act notice includes a procedure for passengers to access their records, and to "contest or seek amendment of" those records. And the TSA notes that it will use a TSA Ombudsman and a Passenger Advocate to help passengers to request corrections of their records. But the records it refers to are the airlines' records, not the government's.
In addition, the error rate will likely be worsened if TSA carries out its announced plan to begin checking passengers for outstanding criminal warrants. What if the warrant data is error-ridden?

Small errors, huge problems

Readers may object that we can live with a few errors in order to get greater security. But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has pointed out that even a small error rate would create huge problems.
With CAPPS II checking an estimated billion transactions, the ACLU points out, " [e]ven if we assume an unrealistic accuracy rate of 99.9%, mistakes will be made on approximately one million transactions, and 100,000 separate individuals." (Emphasis added.) So even a tiny error rate will lead to many, many errors.
Not only will a lot of innocent people be flagged, but worse, as the ACLU notes that a high degree of false positives "will make it extremely hard to find the handful of real terrorists amid the ocean of false positives."
Even the government's more limited existing "no-fly" lists have caused many innocent, Americans to be subjected to countless searches, interviews and refusals to allow them to board. And after an error has been made, it has proved impossible to correct, due to federal government bureaucracy.
The government's own assessment is the right one: Thus far, CAPPS II has been plagued by problems. If it is not drastically transformed, it ought to be cancelled.
TSA screeners lack training, supervision
By Matthew Weinstockmweinstock@govexec.com

Airport screeners are not getting all of the training they need, nor is their performance monitored on a regular basis, according to a new General Accounting Office report.

In a preliminary review of the federalized screener workforce, GAO found that the Transportation Security Administration has not deployed a "recurrent or supervisory training program to ensure that screeners are effectively trained and supervised." The report (GAO-03-1173) goes on to say that TSA "collects little information to measure screener performance in detecting threat objects."

GAO, however, gives the agency credit for taking some steps to address these areas, such as designing an annual retraining program and forging a partnership with the Agriculture Department Graduate School to develop a training course for supervisors.
"GAO says that we need to come up with more training programs. We are doing that," said TSA spokesman Nico Melendez. The agency is also deploying a three-part evaluation system for its screener workforce, according to spokesman Brian Turmail. About 28,000 screeners have completed two phases of the evaluation. Roughly 3 percent of the 50,000 screeners in the agency have been fired for failing to pass different portions of the test, Turmail said.

At the time of its review, GAO was not aware of the evaluation process, according to Cathleen Berrick, GAO's acting director of homeland security and justice issues. She said GAO will continue to monitor the situation as its investigation continues. The agency is scheduled to issue a more comprehensive report on airport screening in April.

Screeners in Boston, Washington, and Norfolk interviewed by Government Executive earlier this month said they have not received refresher training. They were also unclear about what system of measurement would be used to gauge their performance. GAO found similar results in its investigation.

GAO reported that TSA plans to deploy the first of six modules for recurring training in October. The remaining five are expected to be introduced next year.
To monitor performance, TSA sends out covert teams that try to sneak objects past passenger screeners. But the agency conducts far fewer such tests than the Federal Aviation

Administration did when it was responsible for overseeing airport security, according to GAO.

TSA officials said its tests are more rigorous.

Test results do not measure an individual screener's overall performance, but provide a "snapshot" of a screener's ability to detect a weapon at a specific time, TSA officials told GAO.
Classified portions of GAO's analysis suggest that weapons are still making their way past screeners, according to Gary Burns, a spokesman for Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Aviation Subcommittee. Mica requested the investigation.

Some of the security breaches are the result of inadequate technology, Burns added. "The report illustrates that we need to be making better use of our resources," said Burns. "Do we want TSA to spend time managing a workforce or getting better technology?"
Mica had opposed federalizing the screener workforce in the first place. He helped win passage of a provision in the law creating TSA that permits airports to opt out of the federal program and hire private screeners starting in November 2004. TSA is required to develop a program describing how airports can exercise that flexibility.

"We want them to have the program ready soon, so airports can move quickly to the new system," said Burns. "The reality is that TSA has moved along like a lumbering bureaucracy and has been slow to adapt. We are concerned that TSA will not be ready to work with airports when the time comes."

Before developing the opt-out program, TSA wants to evaluate five airports involved in a pilot program allowing them to use private screeners. The airports were initially required to follow the same training and staffing models as federalized airports, but some of those restrictions have been lifted recently. TSA expects to hire a contractor in the next week to review performance at the five airports.

"I want to hear what [officials at airports in the pilot program] are thinking. What would they vary?" TSA Administrator James Loy said during a recent interview with Government Executive. "I want to be honest and objective about putting the data on the table so they can make good decisions."
TSA: Hiring Problems
BY Sarita Chourey

Transportation Security Administration officials have been working to improve hiring practices for airport screeners since 2002, when its transition from contractual help to a federal workforce went into effect.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, recently asked TSA to quickly resolve complaints from screeners "who believe they were mistreated during the early phases of federalization of the screener function." In a letter to the agency, he underscored problems with the grievance process, internal communications and hiring snags. Screeners who were hired by private companies and then wanted federal jobs were caught in a Catch-22, Davis complained.

"According to some unsuccessful applicants, TSA managers told them they could not file a complaint because they were not federal employees," Davis said. "Some screeners contend they were unable to meet deadlines because they were unaware of the deadlines."

A spokesman for Davis said that TSA officials have significantly improved the complaint procedures process, but noted that "what is left is a dissemination problem — letting people know about it."

One instance of the communication gap involves officials' recent decision to give priority until July to contractual screeners who were privately employed and then reapplied for open screener positions.

Committee members are urging TSA to publicize this information, as well as the preference for veterans provided under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. But according to Davis' spokesman, the agency has yet to do so.
"This was a problem that occurred in 2002 when we were hiring thousands of people every week," said TSA spokeswoman Deirdre O'Sullivan. But some, like Peter Winch, national organizer for the American Federation of Government Employees, say the problem is current.
"It's nice that [Davis] gives [TSA] a pat on the back before kicking them around, but they really don't deserve the pat on the back," Winch said. "It's been several years now. If anything, the screeners' situation is getting worse."

At the end of 2002, TSA had reviewed more than 1.7 million applications and hired and trained more than 55,000 employees. During the first step of the hiring process in 2003, O'Sullivan said TSA received 851 informal complaints.

TSA's making progress

Number of complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by airport screeners who object to the Transportation Security Administration's hiring process:
904 complaints pending in January
257 complaints pending in March

We Bitches feel like the current system of airport molestation attempts security checks is highly discriminatory and oppressive. Have you ever noticed that women seemed to be singled out quite often at security checkpoints? This is only because of our breasts. That’s right, The Man™ is forcing us to undergo more thorough checks than males. Why? One word: Bras.

Bras have metal clasps that almost always set off metal detectors. Being pulled aside to have your back felt up by some strange guy with a very phallic object in his hand isn’t always so much fun. Those of us ladies requiring a bit of extra support with underwire bras are doubly screwed.

There’s no way we can get through without being pulled to the side. When we get checked, not only is our back felt up, but they bring a woman over to feel her way around our breasts to confirm that it really is just a tiny little wire.

What can we do? Should all of the ladies be forced to suffer though this? Well, as long as people like this are in charge of our future, we don’t have much of a choice.


The Bitch Girls would like to present our own option for self defense against the roaming hands of airport security. What is this miracle product? The Bitch Bra™. Made from 100% pure duct tape, the Bitch Bra™ will provide you with all of the defense you need against airport security.

Style A Style B

As you can see, we offer two styles. Style A is the choice of many of our smaller breasted women. (Ignore the fact that Spooky was being squeezed in order to make it fit.) Style B is the preferred choice for our larger breasted customers. Our own patented duct tape underwires will make sure that you have the support you deserve. (Style B is currently only available in a D cup.)

Stock up today ladies! Make that next trip through airport security a breeze! Coming soon: Colors! Watch for our new shade of red to be available during next the exam period.

"Hey guys. Just got back from a shooting trip down in LA. At the Seattle end they did what they always do-- swab my boxes of sheet film and let me on through. On my return, however, I had a box of exposed film that the security people at LAX insisted on opening. They that said because the factory seal was broken, I could have a plastic knife in the box, and they couldn't let me through without either x-raying the box or opening it for visual inspection. Only after summoning the supervisor of the supervisor and getting into quite a shouting match, did they finally let me pass with my film... etc"

Maybe they were going by these apparent new regulations:
"My wife, flew today (4-28-04) from Anchorage to Nashville. Going through security she identified herself as a professional photographer and politely requested a hand inspection of her medium format camera and forty plus rolls of 120 format film. She stopped the inspection when she saw the TSA employee ripping open her foil-sealed rolls of Fujifilm prior to wanding them for trace chemical sniffing. She was told that this was now standard operating procedure as per a new bulky TSA manual that was just delivered yesterday to Anchorage International Airport.

The inspector stated that all film that was not 35mm in see-through plastic containers had to be opened. Randi explained that the manufacturer's foil packaging protecting the individual rolls keeps the film clean, light tight and dry over a long trip. By working through TSA supervisors and having a full hour and a half prior to her flight leaving, she was able to convince them to let her through without opening each roll of film.

For those of us with travel and assignments that require us to shoot medium and large format film, this sounds like a real problem flying with your film. I shoot mostly 4x5 and TSA inspectors opening sealed boxes of 4x5 inch sheet film will ruin the film through fogging. Up until now, the inspectors have been content with wand sniffing the outside my light tight film boxes and sheet film holders, but it sounds like this policy has changed."

Saturday, July 23, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Grand juries across California have indicted 40 pilots for fraud after they falsified medical records to hide disabilities like schizophrenia and severe heart problems that would have grounded them, federal officials said on Monday..
The pilots claimed to be fit to fly airplanes but collected disability payments for medical and psychological conditions that would have disqualified them from operating an aircraft, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. Other pilots failed to report they had prior criminal convictions, the statement said.
Authorities said they found pilots who continued to fly even though they had disabilities including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, drug and alcohol addiction, disabling back pain and severe heart conditions.
The indictments follow an 18-month probe of 40,000 licensed pilots in California by federal transportation officials, the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Attorney's office.
The statement said a number of commercial pilots and airline transport pilots were among the people indicted, but it did not provide details.
The pilots committed fraud when they didn't report their disabling medical conditions on their Federal Aviation Administration Medical Airman certificates, according to the statement. That certificate is the key document to obtaining and maintaining an active FAA pilot's license, the statement said.
The FAA has revoked 14 of the pilots' licenses and medical certificates, the other 26 pilots may be suspended.
Judge gives drunk pilots prison terms

Two America West pilots who were drunk in the cockpit at Miami International Airport were sentenced to prison terms of five and 2 ½ years.
The captain of an America West flight who was pulled from the cockpit and arrested after an all-night drinking binge in Coconut Grove must serve five years in prison, and his co-pilot must go to prison for 2 ½ years, a Miami-Dade judge ruled Thursday.
Circuit Judge David Young said Capt. Thomas Cloyd and First Officer Christopher Hughes acted ''outrageously'' when they took control of America West Flight 566 carrying 117 passengers on the morning of July 1, 2002. Less than six hours earlier, they walked out of Mr. Moe's bar with ''to-go'' cups of beer -- the last items on a $122 bar tab.
''What were you thinking of?'' Young said. ``It's inconceivable to me that two individuals who had careers in the airline industry could act so irresponsibly.''
Last month, a jury convicted both pilots of operating an aircraft while drunk, a felony. Breath tests showed both men had alcohol levels over the legal limit -- Cloyd a .09, Hughes a .08 -- more than two hours after they were scheduled to fly the Airbus A319 jet from Miami to Phoenix.
Cloyd and Hughes ordered 14 beers at Mr. Moe's after first drinking champagne at their hotel, then drinking a bottle of wine at dinner with two flight attendants, prosecutors said.
The pilots were tripped up at Miami International Airport by post-Sept. 11 security rules. Cloyd objected when he wasn't allowed to walk through security with his coffee, and others smelled alcohol on Hughes.
''You dump the Starbucks coffee, we wouldn't be here,'' the judge told Cloyd.
While the judge scolded both men, he was particularly hard on Cloyd, a 12-year veteran of the airline who has had three alcohol-related arrests since 1986. Cloyd's five-year sentence was the maximum allowed by law -- and more than prosecutors requested.
The judge also said he was galled by how Cloyd treated Hughes, who looked up to the older pilot. ''I cannot believe you made Mr. Hughes pay for that bar tab,'' the judge said.
Hughes' 2 ½-year sentence was less than the three years prosecutors had requested. Hughes also must serve 2 ½ years of probation when released.
''We felt that the sentences were just,'' Assistant State Attorney Hillah Katz said.
Cloyd's attorney, Daniel Foodman, said his client offered to spend as much as 18 months in prison during plea negotiations with prosecutors. But Katz said the judge refused to accept any plea deal without first hearing all the evidence to help determine his sentence.
Both Cloyd and Hughes are admitted alcoholics who checked themselves into rehab centers after their arrests, and each has attended a special Alcoholics Anonymous program for pilots.
''People do make mistakes in life, and alcohol has clearly been a problem in his life,'' Foodman said of Cloyd. ``He took responsibility immediately by recognizing the problem and going to rehab.''
Hughes' wife, Robbin, appealed for leniency for the sake of the couple's two children. ``You are not only sentencing my husband, but my children and me as well.''
Cloyd, 47, of Peoria, Ariz., and Hughes, 44, of Leander, Texas, were fired from the airline after their arrest, and both were stripped of their commercial pilot licenses.
During the three-week trial, lawyers for Cloyd and Hughes argued that the pilots were not technically in control of the airliner because it was still attached to a tow vehicle when stopped by police.
But Katz called the defense tactic ``an insult to all the people in the airline. It was an insult to the passengers.''
While defense lawyers stressed that no one was injured in the incident, Judge Young was unmoved.
''This crime had dramatic proportions,'' the judge said.
By J. Gary Trichter, Dean

So, you are a big time DWI/DUI lawyer and it is your lucky day! Your secretary tells you that a civil attorney friend has referred a commercial pilot neighbor of his and that he is now on the telephone and wants to schedule an appointment. Of course, hearing the potential for a large fee, you stop what you were doing and take the call.

Captain Lucky Lindy, a 15-year major airline pilot with 15,000 flight hours and who is also a United States Air Force Reserve Flight Officer of 19 years, tells you that 16 days ago he was not so lucky as he was arrested for drunk driving by a member of the local constabulary. He apologizes for not coming in sooner, but he had been on a weeklong round trip flight out of the country and had to immediately report for military reserve duty upon his return. Unlucky Lindy then informs you that he refused the Intoxiliar breath test and that he is very concerned that this incident might cause him to be forced into early retirement. The client's high level of stress is clearly manifested in his voice and by the fact that he continually asks for assurances that he is not going to lose his lifetime investment in his aviation career. Reassuring him that he will be all right and that he is in the best of hands, you schedule an afternoon appointment for him. Not being a pilot or a person with any real aviation experience, you call a local flight school to ask what is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reporting requirement for DWI/DUI.

A young certified flight instructor (CFI) first tells you that there are three types of pilot medical certificates, i.e., a first class that is good for six months, a second class that is good for 12 months, and, a third class that is good for twenty-four months. He further explains that all pilots must have a current medical certificate in order to be legal to fly. The CFI then said the only requirement that he knew about concerning a DWI/DUI conviction was that it be admitted in the space provided for it on the medical certificate application form. Feeling somewhat better informed, you thank the youngster, say goodbye, and wait for your new client to arrive.
At your office interview later that day, Lindy tells you that his FAA First Class Medical Certificate will expire in two weeks and then requests your advice as to whether or not he needs to report his arrest to the feds. Not knowing about the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARS), you tell him not to worry, that you will do some research into the matter, and have an answer for him soon.

During the interview, you properly and thoroughly explain that his case is very defendable, that a DWI/DUI first offense, if there is a conviction, could theoretically result in a sentence of jail, a fine, both jail and a fine, and a driver's license suspension of up to one year. You further inform him that as a consequence of his breath test refusal and because he missed the 15-day period after his arrest to request an administrative hearing, he will lose his driver's license for 90 days. The good news, however, is that he is eligible for an occupational license and that it is almost a sure thing the court will grant him one during the 3 month suspension period.

Unlucky Lindy again revisits the questions with you as to "how will all this affect my flying?" and "do I have to report this to the FAA at this time or later?" Exactly how you answer this question will make a big difference to your legal malpractice carrier, if you have one, and to your retirement account if you do not have coverage. More importantly, it will make all the professional and emotional difference in the world to your pilot client Remembering the CFI's quick tutorial, you inform the client that it is your opinion the medical certificate form only requires the reporting of "convictions" so there is no need to make reference of the arrest on the form when he applies for a new medical certificate. Fortunately, for you, that information is correct. You then say that it is your opinion that the FAA need not be notified at all unless there is a conviction. Oops! This advice just caused a "disturbance in the Force" as it is incorrect. Section 61.15 of the FAR's is what caused the disturbance. It provides: Offenses involving alcohol or drugs.

(c) For the purposes of ...this section, a motor vehicle action means:

(1) A conviction after November 29, 1990, for the violation of any Federal or State statute relating to the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or a drug, while impaired by alcohol or a drug, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug;

(2) The cancellation, suspension or revocation of a license to operate a motor vehicle after November 29, 1990, for a cause related to the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or a drug, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug ;
(d) Except for a motor vehicle action that results from the same incident or arises out of the same factual circumstances, a motor vehicle action occurring within three years of a previous motor vehicle action is grounds for:

(2) Suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part.
(e) Each person holding a certificate issued under this part shall provide a written report of each motor vehicle action to the FAA, Civil Action Security Division (AMC-700), P.O. Box 25810, Oklahoma City, OK 73125, not later than 60 days after the motor vehicle action. The report must include:

(1) The person's name, address, date of birth, and airman certificate number;
(2) The type violation that resulted in the conviction or the administrative action;
(3) The date of the conviction or administrative action;
(4) The State that holds the record of the conviction or administrative action; and
(f) Failure to comply with paragraph (e) of this section is grounds for:
(2) Suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization issued under this part.

Your incorrect advice could cause client Lindy to have his pilot's license suspended or revoked if he does not notify the FAA Civil Aviation Security Division not later than 60 days after his driver's license goes into suspension for refusing to submit to the Intoxiliar test. Of course, should Lindy lose his pilot's license then he most likely would lose his job, too, and you will inevitably get sued! Ouch!

Lets change the facts a bit so that Unlucky Lindy comes to you and says he simply wants to plead guilty, get probation, and get this unfortunate episode behind him. He then asks "will it be sufficient to report my plea and conviction by affirmatively noting them on my medical certificate application?" If you are inclined to think that it is logical to assume the answer is "yes" because your client is actually notifying the FAA of his conviction by admitting it on the form, then you should be happy to know it is indeed a logical conclusion. Regrettably, however, like the rest of the government, the FAA does not always think, act or promulgate its rules logically and again you should feel a "disturbance in the Force". If you don't like that answer or you do not believe in the "Force", then consider the bureaucratic nightmare that befell a major airline captain in 1991. In May the pilot was arrested for drunk driving. Days after the arrest, feeling very concerned about his career and about following the rules, he actually called the local FAA office (Flight Standards District Office, a/k/a "FSDO") to ask about the affect the DUI/DWI would have on his pilot's license.

The FSDO, being helpful, only reminded him that it would be necessary to report the conviction, if one happened, on his medical application form when he reapplied for it the next month in June. Not wishing to contest the DUI/DWI, the captain pled guilty on June 10. Within two weeks, during the completion of his medical application form, the captain in answer to question "21v" checked "yes" and self disclosed the conviction. Notwithstanding the fact that he did not make further reference to the conviction on the form, he did explain and further disclose the events giving rise to the conviction to the FAA Medical Examiner Physician. The doctor, ostensibly believing the captain fit for flying, issued him a new medical certificate. On the first of October, the FAA's Aeromedical Branch, following routine procedures, requested the captain to furnish further details of the conviction. The information was promptly furnished to the satisfaction of the branch.

Then comes the "disturbance in the Force". The FAA popped the captain for a twenty day suspension for violating FAR 61.15 because he did not specifically notify the Civil Aviation Security Division in Oklahoma City within the sixty days as called for by the rule. "Wow!" you say? Well, so said the captain too! "Unreasonable!" you say. Well, you must be clairvoyant because that is exactly what the dumfounded captain also said.

Does the word "appeal" come to mind? It did to the captain and he appealed to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) saying in effect that because he had no intent to deceive and that he had in fact reported his conviction to the FAA, although not to the security division because he was unaware of the rule , it was unreasonable to find a violation and suspend him. "Wow!", said the judge agreeing with the pilot. "Unreasonable!", said the judge again agreeing with the pilot. Indeed, after hearing the evidence the judge not only found that there was "substantial compliance" with the rule, but also, he dismissed the case against the pilot.

Does the word "appeal" come to mind again? It did to the FAA and it appealed to the full 5 member NTSB Board. "Wow!" said the Board. "Reversed" said the Board, and they reinstated the record of the conviction albeit without the suspension. The Board went on to say that "[a]s a general rule, airmen are expected and obliged to know the regulations to which they are subject, and ignorance of them is no defense. The reporting requirement regulation was in effect at the time of the [captain's conviction] and its language is absolutely clear". (emphasis added) "Ouch!" said the captain. His lawyer probably said "HOLY S--T!!!!!!!!!"

The above examples ought to make you very careful in representing pilots in drunk driving prosecutions and/or administrative driver's license proceedings that are collateral to the drunk driving case. Clearly, the effect of either a failure to report or even a properly filed report are quite consequential for the pilot Clearly, too, if that effect was brought about by ignorance and improper advice of counsel then, it too, has serious consequences for the lawyer.

Unquestionably, FAR 61.15 is a landmine just waiting to get stepped on by the innocent pilot/client and the unwary lawyer. One would think if the self-disclosure requirement were that important to the FAA that it would have created a form for reporting the required information just as it did on the medical certificate application. That, however, is not the case because there is no preprinted form.

To summarize, the pilot/client who is convicted of DUI/DWI must report that conviction on his medical application. He must also notify the FAA Civil Security Division in Oklahoma City within 60 days of the conviction. Contacting the local FAA FSDO is not compliance under the rule. The pilot/client must also report any action taken on his driver's license that emanated from the drunk driving arrest, i.e., a suspension for either failing the breath/blood test or for refusing a breath/blood test. This report, too, is made to the FAA Oklahoma Office Civil Security Division and must be made within 60 days of the suspension. In cases where the pilot/client suffers both a DUI/DWI conviction as well as an administrative license suspension that arose out of the same factual circumstances, he must timely report both of them to the Security Division or face a non-reporting violation.

Note, however, that only one of the two reports can be used for suspension/revocation purposes under FAR 61.15 (d), i.e., the FAA needs 2 separate incidents within a 3 year period to deny an application or suspend/revoke a pilot license.

Playing lawyers for the moment, arguably the reporting requirement for both a conviction and/or a suspension for refusing and/or failing a breath/blood test is in our opinion stayed for as long as the conviction and/or suspension are on appeal. There is no law on this question as of yet but the 60 day clock on appeals we have handled have been treated by the FAA as starting when the appellate process was over and there were actual final court orders in affect.

Playing lawyers again, from a strategy viewpoint, in many jurisdictions it may be advantageous in defendable DUI/DWI prosecutions where the pilot/client plans on contesting the charge to always appeal the loss of an administrative driver's license revocation/suspension hearing. This is true because in many jurisdictions, the license is suspension is rescinded as a matter of law where the criminal case ends with a verdict of "not guilty".

Clearly, this strategy will prevent you and your client from having to deal with the FAA on the issue of record correction and/or expungement. Said another way, it is a lot easier to not ring the bell in the first instance than it would be to un-ring it after the fact.

Lets stroll through the minefield with two more examples before we put this topic to rest. Example 1): How about where the pilot/client is arrested for drunk driving, refuses the Intoxiliar test, DUI/DWI charges are filed but subsequently dismissed for insufficient evidence, however, he still suffers a driver's license suspension for the breath test refusal. Looking at FAR 61.15(c) (2), the question becomes does the not so clear language: "...for a cause related to the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated..." (emphasis added) excuse such a pilot from the self reporting requirement because there was not sufficient evidence of "while intoxicated" to warrant a continued drunk driving prosecution?

Applying the NTSB logic about "language [that] is absolutely clear" from our first example, a reasonable pilot and/or reader should clearly interpret the "while intoxicated" language of FAR 61.15 (c) (2) to mean what it says, i.e., that there must be sufficient evidence that the driver was intoxicated to require him to notify the Civil Aviation Security Division. Requiring that a statute, rule, regulation or law be interpreted in light of the clear meaning of its words makes good sense to us. Indeed, that has been a judicial and legislative rule of construction for quite some time now. Moreover, one would also think that a reasonable pilot and /or reader could rely on the doctrine of "stare decisis". Remember, this is the doctrine that requires consistency so that "we the people" can rely on precedent in order for us to be "expected and obliged to know the regulations to which [we] are subject..."

Regrettably, there is no guarantee in life that either the FAA or the NTSB will act logically, reasonably, sensibly, on the clear meaning of a FAR, or on precedent. Such was the hard 120 day pilot's license suspension lesson learned by an Ohio commercial pilot who had been stopped for erratic driving and subsequently refused to submit to a breath test. In that case the pilot was neither arrested nor charged with drunk driving but did suffer a one-year driver's license suspension.

This case turned on the FAA's and NTSB's interpretation of FAR 61.15 (d)'s language "motor vehicle action". On the rationale side of the controversy was the pilot who argued that a breath test refusal is not proof of alcohol or drug involvement. Indeed, the definition of " motor vehicle action" requires that the suspension be "for a cause related to the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or a drug, while impaired by alcohol or a drug, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug (emphasis added)." In this regard, it is of import to note that the suspension was not for being intoxicated, but rather, only for refusing the requested test. Of course on the flip side of the controversy was the FAA which claimed in a conclusory and wholesale fashion, that a breath test refusal fit within the broad meaning of "motor vehicle action" under section 61.15. In a decision that runs afoul with reason and plain language, the NTSB simply deferred to the FAA and rubber-stamped its definition.

So much for fairness, uniformity and "stare decisis".
Example 2): Our final example involves the scenario where the pilot/client, although originally charged with DUI/DWI, is allowed to plead to a lesser or new nonintoxication/ nonimpairment/noninfluence charge such as reckless driving and the original charge is dismissed, or, where the DUI/DWI prosecution resolves itself with a pre-trial diversion, deferred adjudication, or probation before judgement, i.e., there is no final conviction. The question here is: "whether or not FAR 61.15 requires self reporting of cases that are resolved without alcohol, drugs, intoxication, impairment, influence or that do not involve a final conviction?" The short answer, at least for now, is "no!"

So what does all this mean to the lawyer who represents the client/pilot who is accused of DUI/DWI? It means you need to be real careful to protect your pilot and yourself from collateral dangers that abound to the client because he is subject to a different and additional set of rules than the non-client/pilot due to his winged status. It means that not only do you need to go out and get a copy of the current FARs, but also, that you need to read and understand them. Review of NTSB decisions are also a must! Don't get trapped! Read and don't hesitate to ask others more knowledgeable for help or advice. A great place to start is the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). It has a pilot assistance hotline for members at 1-800-USA-AOPA (1-800-872-2572) and a web site at http://www.aopa.org/. In closing, those of us who have been lucky enough to represent pilots know that they are some of the greatest clients and nicest friends around. Remember, protecting a pilot's license is protecting your own law license. Avoid the FAA pitfalls. Don't crash and burn.
FLORAL PARK, New York-- The body of an apparent stowaway was ripped in half during flight Tuesday and his leg crashed into a suburban neighborhood, where a homeowner found the severed limb in the middle of her lawn, authorities said.Pam Hearne heard "a loud crash" and later was stunned to see a foot clad in an Adidas sneaker and a sock in her yard, said Officer Thomas Blanchard. The leg, with hip and spine attached, dented the shingled roof of her garage before bouncing into the lawn.
Police suspect the remains are from a stowaway who may have been crushed as the South African Airways jet lowered its landing gear on its approach to Kennedy Airport.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said the pilot of flight 203 would have probably started lowering the plane's landing gear in the sky over the home in Floral Park, about 5 miles from the airport.
Peters said a Customs agent that met the flight at the airport found another leg hanging from the wheel well.
The airline said in a statement that the flight landed with "no impact" on the passengers and crew and it was working closely with authorities to investigate how someone may have stowed away.
The flight originated in Johannesburg, and made one stop in Senegal. Authorities had not identified the remains, which were hauled away from Hearne's yard in a plastic bag.
Hearne, a special education teacher, said that when she first saw the leg in the grass, "it didn't look real."
"But I am very glad that I live where I do," she said, "so I don't have to run for my life like this man probably was doing."
There have been cases of stowaways being crushed by the mechanism in aircraft wheel wells and perishing from the extreme cold at high altitude.
Courtesy of: cnn
Weird goes the extra mile

Whether waiting for hours at the airport, seated next to a turkey on a flight or crawling in a line of cars just to stuff quarters in a turnpike toll machine, you may think your Thanksgiving

Weekend travels are something to squawk about. Maybe so. But give thanks that your travails probably don't match up to the weirder travel experiences of the past year. USA TODAY's Kitty Bean Yancey spotlights 2004's travel oddities.The cat's out of the bag

A flight between Brussels and Vienna was scratched in midair Aug. 9 because of an angry cat.

The feline, traveling on the SN Brussels Airlines flight, apparently was released from its cage by a child and slinked into the cockpit when crew meals were served. After the cat resisted being shooed out and scratched a co-pilot on the arm, the pilot turned the plane back to Brussels and made an emergency landing.
The kitty was grounded.
Full monty screening

Most folks slip off their jackets and shoes at airport security checkpoints. A passenger at the Minneapolis airport took the dressing-down a step further.

Police said a screener was waving a metal-detecting wand over the man's pants in July when he dropped trou to reveal he wasn't wearing underwear."There, how do you like your job?" he said, according to a police report. He later pleaded guilty to indecent exposure and paid a $163 fine.
"We needed to take some action on that," airport police Lt. Matt Christenson told the Associated Press. "Otherwise, everybody would be dropping their pants."

Punching out
Seeing a passenger apparently deep in slumber as a train rolled toward York, England, a conductor discreetly stamped and returned the man's ticket. When the train arrived at the station, the rider couldn't be budged, and paramedics were summoned.

"It turned out that the passenger had expired long before his ticket ever did," said a report in the British Transport Police's magazine.
The buzzing trash bin

An airport in Brisbane, Australia, was evacuated Oct. 3 after a security officer heard a humming noise in a trash can and called the bomb squad.

After 45 minutes, passengers and staffers were allowed back into Mackay Airport. The buzzing device turned out to be a vibrating sex toy.
More bad vibrations

A vibrator plays a part in a lawsuit an Atlanta woman filed against Delta Airlines.

In the suit, which is being heard by a Georgia court this month, the woman, 38, charged that Delta employees ordered her to open her humming baggage, unpack a sex toy and remove its batteries while fellow passengers stared and a baggage handler made what she calls humiliating, salacious remarks.

The passenger, who is seeking unspecified damages, said she has sought treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Naked for takeoff

At Los Angeles International Airport, a man stripped to protest an airline's refusal to sell him a ticket and raced onto the tarmac.

The Canadian, who was turned away by Qantas Nov. 1 when he tried to purchase a ticket using an unrelated credit-card receipt, took off his clothes, climbed over a barbed-wire fence and ran toward a 747 as it backed away from a gate. He climbed into a wheel well and exited only after the airliner braked and authorities arrived.

An airport spokeswoman said the man suffered from bipolar disorder and had been listed as a missing person in Canada.
It's a gas!

"At 30,000 feet, it's difficult to blame the dog." So reads the promo in the Magellan's travel-supplies catalog for what might be the quirkiest travel gizmo of 2004: the Flatulence Filter. The seat cushion with built-in, odor-absorbing carbon air filter sells for $39.85.
Leave the wallet home

Clubgoers in Barcelona are raving over a new kind of implant.

It's a syringe-injected microchip that gives select revelers automatic entry to the Baja Beach Club, lets them pay their bills and even opens doors to the club's VIP areas.

If only it could whoosh you through airport security.
Seatmates vs. politics

Your mother may have warned that it's risky to bring up religion or politics in certain company. With the passenger next to you, for one.

In September, an argument over the U.S. presidential election prompted the emergency landing of a Northwest Airlines jet in Winnipeg, Canada. A 58-year-old New York man was escorted from the plane and handed over to police.

The trouble began when he and a female seatmate began discussing the election. He supported John Kerry; she favored George Bush.

The woman complained to a flight attendant that he kept touching her shoulder and leg and smelled of alcohol.

The flight attendant ordered him to hand over a Snapple bottle, which was found to contain booze. He allegedly responded by dumping the contents on his seat and shouting vulgarities.

The man's lawyer said his client admitted having a few drinks but denies being drunk or belligerent.
Deplane, deplane!

Take it from a well-traveled movie star: You might want to stay away from seafood before taking a trans-Pacific flight.

Tara Reid, who is known for her cocktail-fueled antics at nightclubs, had to disembark after boarding a flight from Maui to Los Angeles in January.

Tabloid reports said the blond party girl had overindulged and was testy with flight attendants. Reid's publicist had a different explanation: The actress was feeling ill after eating "bad fish."
Coffee, tea, rose water?

A piece of leaking luggage closed Indiana's Fort Wayne International Airport for 10 hours Aug. 18.
The fluid, which made one luggage handler ill and prompted treatment for a half-dozen others, turned out to be rose water, which is used in Middle Eastern cooking.

The bag's owner, a math professor, was shocked to get a $22,700 bill for cleanup of hazardous material, including $17,000 for response from 10 fire department vehicles.

He told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that he used rose water to make desserts such as baklava. Though he ended up not having to pay the bill, he said he lost his taste for rose-water cooking.
The buck stops here

O'Hare International Airport's security measures may be strict, but they weren't tough enough to deter a deer from ambling into Terminal Two on Nov. 16.
A spokeswoman for the Chicago airport said the buck apparently entered through an automatic freight door. The animal (which was not carrying an ID) was cornered and sedated by animal control officers.

Meanwhile, a woman returning a minivan to the Boise airport in September mistook a "terminal access" sign for the way to the car-rental return site. She drove into the baggage claim area through automatic doors. Luckily, no one was in her path.
Prize airline tickets 'taxed'The winner of an American Airlines contest says he would have been better off losing - and declined the prize of 12 return tickets for two to anywhere in the world covered by the airline.

The contest awarded free tickets to travellers submitting the best videos, essays or photographs about their flying experiences. But the 'lucky' winner was lumbered with federal and state income taxes on the company's "approximate retail value" of the tickets - valued at £30,000.

That's equivalent to about £455 for each of the 24 tickets.
Winner Jack McCall, from New York, turned down the prize after calculating he could probably buy the tickets cheaper than they cost in taxes in today's cut-rate airline pricing environment.
As the GSC on duty I was walking down the concourse when my radio sounded off. My assistance was requested at the concourse security check point. As luck would have it I was only about 200 feet away, so I was there in a couple seconds.

When I arrived I found the CSS standing in front of a large man blocking him from exiting into the concourse. I walked up to the two men and introduced myself to the customer, now rolling his eyes up into the air. I inquired of the CSS what the situation was. And he informed me the Gentleman had over 100, CO2 cartridges in the carry on bag in his hand (why he was allowed to retrieve the bag was another matter). I thanked him for the information and turned my attention to the passenger.

I started to explain the danger of carrying CO2 cartridges on the aircraft, and before I was through my third sentence, the passenger exploded into a tirade of more swearing than you can hear in a truck stop in a day. Now I am 6'1" and this guy towered over me. He was leaning down right into my face and yelling so loud I almost got rattled. But then in the process of his screaming he started spraying spit into my face. Now this ticked me off and I stepped right into his chest, in a moment I thought better of my next action and calmly asked him to lower his voice and discuss the situation with me. This statement seemed to confuse him for a couple seconds then he grabbed me by the throat. Within two or three seconds he was in hand-cuffs, and already being very appologetic. He didn't notice the two policemen that walked up behind him immediatly after I arrived on the scene. I informed the officers I would not be pursuing any charges, and they said they were going to hold him for a while and then fine him.

The last I saw of him, he was being lead away with his wife right behind him yelling, "You always have to be the asshole don't you".
As head of security I was informed that we had an aircraft returning to the gate with a passenger on board causing problems and was considered a security risk.

The gate was on the other side of the airport and my only means of transport was to run, which I did. Through the glass I could see the aircraft entering the gate area. I called on the radio not to pull the jetway forward untill I was there, that message did not make it to the gate agent. By the time I arrived on the jetway the door of the aircraft was open and the agent was onboard.
I inquired of the problem passenger and the gate agent said he bolted off the aircraft when the door opened, but he had caught up to him and told him to wait by the podium untill we could assist him. To this statement I informed him his gate was empty and the aggitated passenger was gone. To compound the situation he wasn't sitting in the proper seat so we had no idea who we were looking for.

It took a half hour to go through the manifest and figure out the missing persons name, and during this process I made the decision to groung the aircraft untill a thourough search could be made, this would take 4 to six hours. As the bags would need to be screened and searched by an explosives dog. and all carry-ons had to removed and hand searched.

To this end we stole an aircraft going to a neighboring city and transfered all screened baggage and passengers over to this aircraft, this cut the delay down to 2 hours instead of possibly 6. But now we had two flights facing delays of two hours or more because someone just couldn't listen. If he had stayed and we could have resolved his problem to satisfaction, only one flight would have taken a minor delay, not two. Now I was faced with the problem of dealing with our missing passenger.

All available agents were searching all flights for the name of our runner, he was located just 6 gates down trying to board another flight to his destination. As I entered the gate the agent on duty pointed him out, I approached him and inquired his name. Confirming it was the same person I asked him why he bolted and did not follow the last agents instructions to wait. He informed me that he was claustrophobic and the last aircraft was to confining, I pointed out that he was switching from a wide body DC10 to an airbus 310 a much smaller aircraft, and that this didn't make sense. He then informed me that he believed something was wrong with the DC10 and he panicked.

I Informed him that I felt because of his irrational behavior I couldn't allow him to travel that day, he was welcome to return another day when he felt better about traveling. He wasn't amenible to that idea and started to vehimently argue with me. I asked him for his ticket and in large letters wrote across the front "NOT VALID IN DESIGNATED CARRIER" and signed it. I then had his baggage retrieved and returned to him and let him know he would have to find another way across country.

Three months later I was sitting in a courtroom 3000 miles away defending my actions against a frivilous lawsuit. After hearing both side of the case the judge dismissed the suit and recomended we might want to consider reversing the suit to retreive some of our losses.
As a Customer Service Manager at DFW for the world's largest airline, I was out in the operation helping board an oversold flight on a busy summer afternoon a while back. I remember we had a lot of standbys that day (both employees and their parents, spouses, partners, children, etc.) and frankly, chances looked pretty slim for most of them, to be honest.

After soliciting volunteers (who then joined the throngs of standbys crowding the gate area) I started the boarding process. Soon the lounge cleared out to only those passengers and standbys waiting for a seat. We released the seats of the no-shows about 10 minutes before departure time and discovered we had a handful of seats to dole out in the order on the priority list in the computer. We handed the first seats backed to the volunteers, then did some juggling for the couples trying to get seated together, and finally came down to accommodating one revenue passenger who had missed an earlier flight.

It was now about 3 minutes before departure and I had very little time left to get that aircraft door closed for an on-time departure. I told the standbys that we were sorry, but there were no more seats and I'd be right back to 'roll' them to the next flight. Immediately one man jumped up and accosted me at the jetbridge door (he was really far down on the standby list if memory serves me well.) "Whadda ya mean there's no more seats - I WANT MY SEAT NOW before this plane leaves," he bellowed. "I'm sorry sir, but you're standby and there are no more seats on this flight, I replied." He looked shocked and replied angrily: "Look, I've stood by for over an hour, and now I want my seat so I can get on this flight!"

Luckily a fellow agent ran down to button up the flight, while I took him aside for a stern discussion. As it turned out, he was an employee's brother who hadn't grasped the whole concept of standby as it was explained to him. He actually thought it meant waiting until departure time to find out what seat assignment he'd have on the flight. And for that he thought he could fly free?!! When I finally got through to him, he became totally irate and just said "I'm never flying this outfit again!"
Sometimes you've just gotta laugh and move on to help the next genius in line.
I was collecting boarding passes on a very full Los Angeles flight. A passenger had too many carry on bags and I told him that he would have to check one. He began to argue, using all the usual cliches "I fly all the time" "I always carry on three bags" "I'm a premier flyer" He eventually figured out that he wasn't going anywhere unless he gave up the bag. I was apologetic, trying to explain that the flight was full, and I was just enforcing the FAA policy.

He said he was going to write a letter to my supervisor. I chuckled to myself because I was sure that my supervisor would be happy to hear I was enforcing the carryon baggage limits on a full LAX flight on a Friday evening, since she had just written a briefing item saying we needed to have more enforcement. Angry that he couldn't intimidate me, he started down the jetway after I handed him the claim ticket.

Suddenly his briefcase sprung open, it's contents scattering all over. "How is that for Karma" the next passenger in line laughed as I took his boarding pass.
I was working at the information desk at Hamburg airport (Germany) when a woman came towardds me and asked me if she went to the right gate. The screen was showing "Las Palmas" but she said she booked a package tour to Gran Canaria. After I explained that Gran Canaria is the name of the island and Las Palmas is the capital city of it, she was very relieved and said:"Thank you, but may I ask you another question? How do I get to Gran Canaria from THERE?"
A very prominent retired baseball player, one of the best known of our time, was traveling with a companion, a beautiful, tall, leggy blond, that could make you sweat, with just a look. Well the two of them arrived at O'Hare without tickets in hand, they were pre-paid. Noticing the lines were far to long for him to get through in time to catch his flight he stopped a passing supervisor and told him he needed assistance right now! The supervisor realizing who he was dealing with fell all over the ex-player, apologized for us being busy, and told him we would comply with his wishes immediately.

This supervisor had no idea how to issue a ticket or do anything else useful in his area, so he grabbed me (a Lead). I was in the middle of fixing a problem for another passenger when I was physically pulled away. I signed into a set and issued the tickets in a few moments. While listening to the ex-player berate me for being slow and, I "was going to make him miss his flight".

Approx 40 seconds after signing in The tickets were on top of the counter with the auditors coupon next to them.

The player scooped up the tickets and with his companion on his arm he hustled towards security.

I quickly signed out of the set locked the drawer and took off after the ex-major leaguer. Catching him as he was going through the mag I called his attention to me. He turned and saw a paper and pen in my hand, he responded "Look I really am in a hurry, but I guess I can give you an autograph." "I really do appreciate that," I said. "But could you please just sign for your tickets!
....life at O'Hare...
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Transportation Security Administration violated privacy protections by secretly collecting personal information on at least 250,000 people, congressional investigators said Friday.
The Government Accountability Office sent a letter to Congress saying the collection violated the Privacy Act, which prohibits the government from compiling information on people without their knowledge.
The information was collected as the agency tested a program, now called Secure Flight, to conduct computerized checks of airline passengers against terrorist watch lists.
TSA had promised it would only use the limited information about passengers that it had obtained from airlines. Instead, the agency and its contractors compiled files on people using data from commercial brokers and then compared those files with the lists.
The GAO reported that about 100 million records were collected.
The 1974 Privacy Act requires the government to notify the public when it collects information about people. It must say who it's gathering information about, what kinds of information, why it's being collected and how the information is stored.
And to protect people from having misinformation about them in their files, the government must also disclose how they can access and correct the data it has collected.
Before it began testing Secure Flight, the TSA published notices in September and November saying that it would collect from airlines information about people who flew commercially in June 2004.
Instead, the agency actually took 43,000 names of passengers and used about 200,000 variations of those names - who turned out to be real people who may not have flown that month, the GAO said. A TSA contractor collected 100 million records on those names.
Justin Oberman, the TSA official in charge of Secure Flight, said that was a highly instructive test.
"When you cannot distinguish one John Smith from another, you're going to get records from John Smiths who aren't boarding flights on an order of magnitude we can't handle," Oberman said.
He said the testing is designed to find out what kind of data airlines will need to get - such as passengers' birthdates - so they can turn it over to the government to check against watch lists.
The GAO letter said that the TSA also said originally that it wouldn't use and store commercial data about airline passengers. It not only did that, it collected and stored information about the people with similar names.
"As a result, an unknown number of individuals whose personal information was collected were not notified as to how they might access or amend their personal data," the letter said.
It was only after meeting with the GAO, which is overseeing the program, that the TSA published a second notice indicating that it would do the things it had earlier said it wouldn't do.
Oberman said it's not unusual to revise such notices.
"We are conducting a test," he said. "I didn't know what the permutations would be."
Oberman also said that the test has no impact on anyone who travels and that the data will be destroyed when the test is over.
Friday's GAO letter shed new light on how the TSA expanded the testing of Secure Flight well beyond its original scope and why it had to publish the second notice.
The letter drew a sharp rebuke from Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman Susan Collins, R-Maine, and the ranking Democrat, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff dated Friday.
"Careless missteps such as this jeopardize the public trust and DHS' ability to deploy a much-needed, new system," the letter said, citing the project's "unfortunate history."

Friday, July 22, 2005

Southwest fires pilots for takeoff — of their uniforms
By Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY

Southwest Airlines has fired two pilots for allegedly turning their cockpit into a clothing-optional playpen.
The pilot and co-pilot — both men — were dismissed for allegedly taking off all or most of their clothes in the cockpit of their aircraft.
"Southwest Airlines conducted a thorough investigation and terminated the two pilots involved for inappropriate conduct," says spokeswoman Ginger Hardage, who would not elaborate. Southwest "will not tolerate any inappropriate or offensive behavior."
Cockpit shenanigans seem to be on the rise, even as pilots and passengers face the stresses of air terror fears. America West fired a pair of pilots last year for being under the influence of alcohol in the cockpit after running up a $142 tab at a Miami bar the night before. And a Northwest Airlines pilot was arrested in January, after a loaded gun was found in his carry-on.
The Southwest dismissals occurred earlier this month for an incident that happened months ago. The names of the pilots involved were not disclosed.
The president of Southwest's pilots association, Capt. Ike Eichelkraut, would say only, "It's an internal matter."
The pilots involved are appealing their termination, sources say. They contend that one of them removed his uniform after coffee was spilled. A flight attendant saw them after being summoned to the cockpit to bring paper towels and soda water.
Southwest is treating the episode as a prank that went too far.
While the incident occurred on a Boeing 737 in flight, there's no implication that safety was breeched. And a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman says there's no specific prohibition against flying naked.
"I'm not aware there are any regulations on the type of clothing, so there's most likely none on (wearing) no clothing at all," spokesman Les Dorr says. There are rules against behavior that distracts crewmembers during vital phases of flight, which is just about anything below 10,000 feet, Dorr notes.
Southwest is famous for being offbeat. When the airline started flying in 1971, flight attendants wore hot pants and were chosen for sex appeal. Founder Herb Kelleher, dubbed the "high priest of Ha Ha" by Fortune magazine, unabashedly said the airline looked for "attitudes; people with a sense of humor who don't take themselves too seriously."
To this day, Southwest often makes funny in-flight announcements, sometimes even in song. Kelleher, who has publicly dressed as Elvis, once arm-wrestled the head of another company for the rights to a slogan.
He lost and was ceremoniously carried from the ring on a stretcher while sipping shots of Wild Turkey
US pilots drunk on the job

Thu, 09 Jun 2005Two US pilots were convicted of trying to fly a jet with 124 passengers on board out of Miami while drunk, local media reported, and now face up to five years in jail when they are sentenced next month.
Thomas Cloyd and Christopher Hughes, who worked for the US carrier America West, were arrested July 1, 2002 when they tried to board a flight and take off for Phoenix, Arizona, from Miami international airport. Airport employees smelled alcohol and noticed their eyes were bloodshot.
Airport workers called in Miami-Dade county police to report the pilots who had boarded the plane and started doing pre-flight checks.
Flight 566 had separated from the gate and was headed onto a runway to prepare for takeoff when it was pulled over. The pilots were ordered to return to the gate where they were met by police.
Two hours later they were taken to a police station where they were given alcohol tests. Their levels topped the legal limit of 0.08 percent alcohol in the blood. Cloyd and Hughes tried to move their case to federal courts where the blood alcohol limit is a higher 0.10 percent.
And they argued they did not have direct control of the plane because it was being towed by a small vehicle on the ground.
Court documents maintain Cloyd and Hughes had been drinking beer in a Miami bar until early in the morning of July 1 — four hours before the flight. Safety rules bar pilots from drinking alcohol fewer than eight hours ahead of a flight.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A man has been living at a Paris airport since 1988.

What follows is one representative newspaper account of the strange story of Merhan Karimi Nasseri, a man without country, trapped by his lack of papers in Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, France, since 26 August 1988:

He could be any passenger waiting for a flight, sitting patiently on a red plastic bench in Charles de Gaulle Airport's Terminal One, luggage piled neatly by his side.
He sips a cup of hot chocolate and scans the crowd, occasionally cocking his head to listen to the airport announcements. He peruses a book, Hillary Rodham Clinton's "It Takes a Village."

But Merhan Karimi Nasseri is going nowhere. He has been waiting for a flight out of France, he says, for 10 years.

Nasseri was expelled from Iran a decade ago for his political views. Through a series of fateful missteps, he landed here without any documents. Since then, Europe's increasingly stiff stance toward refugees and his fragile mental state have kept him at the airport here in legal limbo.

His is a story of broken hopes and bureaucracy, of a trip across Europe in search of a homeland that became a journey into mental chaos and despair. And it is a story of a man who has searched for his family, only to find an adopted one here, at Charles de Gaulle.
"He's like a part of the airport. Everyone knows him," says Muhamed Mourrid, the manager of the Bye Bye Bar, pointing to the spot where Nasseri, 47, has lived for a decade. "That's his table, his chair, his place." Adds Marise Petry, a Lufthansa clerk, "He's one of us. We even get letters for him."

Among the annals of horrific refugee tales, Nasseri's story is remarkable for its pathos and complexity. It begins in Iran in 1977, when Nasseri, fresh from studying in England, was expelled for protesting against the shah. His expulsion left him without a passport.
Nasseri came to Europe. He bounced from capital to capital, applying for refugee status and being refused, again and again, for nearly four years. In 1981, his request for political asylum from Iran was finally granted by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Belgium.
That decision gave him refugee credentials, which in turn allowed him to seek citizenship in a European country. The son of an Iranian and a Briton, Nasseri decided in 1986 on England with the hope of finding relatives there.

He got as far as Paris, where in 1988 his briefcase containing his refugee documents was stolen in a train station.

Nasseri boarded a plane for London anyway. But when officials at Heathrow Airport found he had no passport, they sent him back to Charles de Gaulle. At first, the French police arrested him for illegal entry. But as Nasseri had no documents, there was no country of origin to which he could be deported.

So he took up residence in Terminal One. From its circular confines, he and his attorney, the Paris-based human rights lawyer Christian Bourget, battled to define his status and send him to London. In 1992, a French court finally ruled that Nasseri had entered the airport legally as a refugee and could not be expelled from it.

But the court could not force the French government to allow him out of the airport onto French soil. In fact, Bourget said, French authorities refused to give Nasseri either a refugee or transit visa. "It was pure bureaucracy," said the lawyer. French immigration authorities have no comment on the case.
Bourget and Nasseri then focused on Belgium, where they hoped to reclaim Nasseri's original refugee documents. But Belgian refugee officials refused to mail them to him in France. They argued that Nasseri had to present himself in person so that they could be sure he was the same man to whom they had granted political asylum years before.
But, inexplicably, the Belgian government refused at that point to allow Nasseri to return there. And under Belgian law, a refugee who voluntarily leaves a country that has accepted him cannot return.
In 1995, the Belgian government finally told Nasseri that he could retrieve his refugee documents if he agreed to live in Belgium under the supervision of a social worker. Nasseri refused. He said he would move only to Great Britain.
And so here he has remained, year after year. At first glance, the dignified man does not appear to be a refugee who sleeps on an airport bench because he has nowhere else to go. His clothes are clean, his moustache well-trimmed. He keeps his one blazer covered with plastic wrap, hanging from an airport cart. His belongings are carefully packed in a frayed suitcase and a stack of Lufthansa boxes.
Nasseri nods hello to a clerk, who calls him "Alfred," his nickname here. He follows the news closely, thanks to the most recent Time magazine, which the postman has just dropped off. And he loves to discuss the new selections from the Book-of-the-Month Club. "I just keep on reading, every day," said the soft-spoken Nasseri, a courtly gentleman who rises and offers his seat to a visitor. "I just keep waiting here."
His pallid complexion is testament to his inability to cross the airport threshold to the outside world. He walks to the doors of Terminal One and absorbs fresh air as they swing open. But he never steps outside. His hollow cheeks and thin frame show the limits of the generosity of airport staff and strangers to help with his meals.
Nasseri's confused account of his plight speaks to the psychological price he has paid in his fight to become a man who belongs somewhere. "Nobody could suffer all he did and stay normal," noted Bourget.
The sad truth is this: After fighting for years to leave the airport and apply for citizenship elsewhere, Nasseri was afraid to do so when the opportunity arose. Belgium offered Nasseri the chance to settle there, but he refused. "Now, I think he will stay in the airport until he dies," Bourget concluded softly.
His bizarre tale has brought him a degree of fame. He has been the subject of news reports from Finland to Britain. His life story became a 1994 French film, starring Jean Rochefort.
Nasseri gets fewer visitors now to punctuate the long days down on Terminal One's boutique level, ringed with stores and small cafes. But he still has a following who help clothe and feed him and lift his spirits. "He does no harm to anyone," said Papa Starr, manager of the Les Palmes restaurant. "Everyone cares for him here."
Several times a week, the airport priest stops by to visit him, as does Dr. Phillipe Bargain, the airport doctor. Many staff regularly visit him at his table for a cup of coffee and a chat. "I get lots of cards at Christmas," he said. "I call it my American Christmas."
His life follows the quotidian airport cycle. He wakes at 5:30 in order to shave in the men's room before passengers arrive. He reads all day long. At night, he waits until the airport stores are locked before he brushes his teeth with the toothbrush and toothpaste from a complimentary airline travel kit. Weekly, he rinses out his clothes overnight in the bathroom.
Nasseri is renowned throughout the airport for his refusal to ask for help. "We have a colleague who gave him clothes, but he returned them, saying 'I'm not a beggar,'" said Crystelle L'Hospitalier, a Lufthansa clerk. But he has to eat, and accepts occasional meal vouchers and francs from stewardesses and airport staff.
As the years have slipped by, it has become increasingly clear that Nasseri will never leave Charles de Gaulle. His airport years have made him "crazier by the day," on the topic of his future, said airport doctor Bargain. When he talks about flying to London, the staff here greet him with understanding smiles.
"An airport is kind of a place between heaven and earth," said Danielle Yzerman, spokeswoman for Charles de Gaulle. "He has found a home here."1 Nasseri, who has since adopted the name "Sir, Alfred Merhan" (that's not a typo — Nasseri took both the title and its misplaced comma from a mistake in a letter from British immigration), has changed the story he tells about his background several times over the years:
Over the years, he has claimed many things about his origins. At one time his mother was Swedish, another time English. Nasseri's effectively reinvented himself in the Charles de Gaulle airport and denies these days that he's Iranian, deflecting any conversation about his childhood in Tehran. ("He pretends he doesn't speak Persian," his longtime lawyer, Christian Bourguet, says. "He was interviewed by Iranian journalists and made believe he didn't understand.") When we first met two years ago, he insisted that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was attempting to locate his parents in order to establish his identity. But a spokeswoman for the agency dismissed the assertion as "pure folly."
Early on in his saga, Nasseri maintained that he was expelled from his homeland for antigovernment activity in 1977. According to a number of reports, Nasseri protested against the regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi while a student in England, and when he returned to Iran, found himself imprisoned, and shortly thereafter exiled.
He bounced around Europe for a few years with temporary refugee papers, alighting finally in Belgium, where he was awarded official refugee status in 1981. He traveled to Britain and France without difficulty until 1988, when he landed at Charles de Gaulle airport after being denied entry into Britain, because, he contends, his passport and refugee certificate were stolen in a mugging on a Paris subway. Nasseri could not prove who he was, nor offer proof of his refugee status. So he moved into the Zone d'attente, a holding area for travelers without papers.
He stayed for days, then weeks — then months, then years. As his bizarre odyssey stretched on, Bourguet, the noted French human rights lawyer, took on the case, and the news media piled on. Articles appeared around the world, and Nasseri became the subject of three documentary films. (Oddly, apparently none of his friends or relatives have attempted to contact him.)2 Nasseri is known for his honesty (when he isn't talking about himself) and his refusal of charity. On two occasions he turned in billfolds full of money that had been mislaid by passengers. Airline and airport personnel push meal vouchers on him so he can eat. "French fries are my favorite," he confides. "It's not a very healthy diet, but I get enough."
On 17 September 1999, an international travel card and a French residency permit were put into Nasseri's hands. With them, he's now free to leave the airport, either to take up residency in France or to fly to another country that will allow him entry. He refuses to sign them, however, because they list his nationality as Iranian, and he wants it listed as British. He remains at Charles de Gaulle airport, using the excuse that he's determined to stick to this point rather than face life outside the terminal:

[In 1999] he finally got permission to leave the airport — in fact, he can now go wherever he likes in Europe. The problem is, he no longer wants to.
"He is scared to leave this bubble world he has been living in," said Dr. Philippe Bargain, the airport's medical director. "Finally getting the papers has been a huge shock to him, as if he was just thrown from his horse. When you wait 11 years for something and suddenly in a few minutes you sign some papers and it's done — imagine what a shock that is."
"He will have to be weaned from the airport, like an addict really." Dr. Bargain said. "Still, it does make you wonder what kind of a society we live in that this can happen to a man."3 As of the summer of 2004, Nasseri is still living in the airport. He does not lack for money — Dreamworks paid him a rumored $250,000 for the rights to his story. Barbara "terminal boredom" Mikkelson

Sightings: The 2004 Tom Hanks film The Terminal is loosely based upon the experience of Merhan Karimi Nasseri.