Tag: Travel And Security

Electronic Surveillance Abroad: ‘Sophisticated and Pervasive’

Also: A little scary. Ellen Nakashima and William Wan illuminate the conditions business travelers and government officials are presumed to face when traveling to China and some other countries. From the Washington Post:

Security experts also warn about Russia, Israel and even France, which in the 1990s reportedly bugged first-class airplane cabins to capture business travelers’ conversations. Many other countries, including the United States, spy on one another for national security purposes.

But China’s brazen use of ­cyber-espionage stands out because the focus is often corporate, part of a broader government strategy to help develop the country’s economy, according to experts who advise American businesses and government agencies.

“I’ve been told that if you use an iPhone or BlackBerry, everything on it—contacts, calendar, e-mails—can be downloaded in a second. All it takes is someone sitting near you on a subway waiting for you to turn it on, and they’ve got it,” said Kenneth Lieberthal, a former senior White House official for Asia who is at the Brookings Institution.

One anonymous security expert buys a new iPad when s/he visits China, then never uses it again.

Tunisia Tackles Tourism Shortfall with Dark Humor

Tunisia’s role in the Arab Spring wasn’t as widely reported as, say, Egypt’s or Libya’s. But word about the country’s revolution has still spread far enough to cut tourism in half—and the Tunisian authorities are hoping to regain some of that lost revenue through a series of ads poking fun at the unrest.

According to the Guardian, one ad shows a woman enjoying a massage under the caption, “They say that in Tunisia some people receive heavy-handed treatment.” Another depicts an ancient archaeological site, with the tag line, “They say Tunisia is nothing but ruins.”

Tasteless? I suppose if I was a Tunisian civilian who’d been shot at or abused by police during the uprising, I might not be amused. But I think tackling a country’s reputation head-on is a good thing—and hey, as Australia learned a few years back, a little controversy can go a long way.

Travel Headline of the Day: Travelers Opt Out of Opt-Out Day

Or variations on the theme, as seen at The Boston Globe:

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World Travel Watch: Hundreds Killed in Phnom Penh Stampede, Dutch ‘Coffee Shops’ Closing to Tourists

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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‘American Traveler Dignity Act’ Introduced in the House

The legislation was proposed by Texas Representative Ron Paul, and would strip TSA screeners’ of their immunity from prosecution. From Paul’s speech to the House:

My legislation is simple. It establishes that airport security screeners are not immune from any US law regarding physical contact with another person, making images of another person, or causing physical harm through the use of radiation-emitting machinery on another person. It means they are subject to the same laws as the rest of us.

Moving beyond the current controversy over scanners and pat-downs, Paul also commented more broadly on airline security since 9/11:

I warned at the time of the creation of the TSA that an unaccountable government entity in control of airport security would provide neither security nor defend our basic freedom to travel. Yet the vast majority of both Republicans and Democrats then in Congress willingly voted to create another unaccountable, bullying agency—in a simple-minded and unprincipled attempt to appease public passion in the wake of 9-11. Sadly, as we see with the steady TSA encroachment on our freedom and dignity, my fears in 2001 were justified.

I’m not sure that going after individual screeners with, say, sexual harassment charges really gets to the root of the issue; they aren’t the ones making policy. Still, it’s heartening to see travelers’ concerns being taken up at the highest levels in Washington.  (Via Gadling)

76-Second Travel Show: The Great Airport Shoe-Removal Debate

Forget the scanners. Robert Reid wonders: Is airport shoe removal "the single greatest energy-wasting resource-sapping project of all time"?

Watch the Video »

World Travel Watch: Tube Strike in London, Election Worries in Egypt and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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World Travel Watch: Traffic Restrictions in Italy, Conflict on the Thai-Burmese Border and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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Pilots: Leading the Charge Against Full-Body Scans

A couple weeks back, we wrote about a lone ExpressJet pilot who faced down the TSA over the new full-body scans. Now a union representing 11,000 American Airlines pilots has joined the fight. Here’s the Allied Pilots Association president, Captain Dave Bates, in a letter to his members:

While I’m sure that each of us recognizes that the threats to our lives are real, the practice of airport security screening of airline pilots has spun out of control and does nothing to improve national security. It’s long past time that policymakers take the steps necessary to exempt commercial pilots from airport security screening and grant designated pilot access to SIDA utilizing either Crew Pass or biometric identification.

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World Travel Watch: G20 Alert in Seoul, Volcano in Indonesia and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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New TSA Pat-Down Techniques: ‘You’re Not Going to Like It’

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg writes about an illuminating encounter he had with TSA agents last week. Goldberg had refused to enter the full-body imaging device at the security checkpoint at Baltimore-Washington International, opting instead for the manual pat-down. Here’s how the agents responded:

When I made this request, a number of TSA officers, to my surprise, began laughing. I asked why. One of them—the one who would eventually conduct my pat-down—said that the rules were changing shortly, and that I would soon understand why the back-scatter was preferable to the manual search. I asked him if the new guidelines included a cavity search. “No way. You think Congress would allow that?”

I answered, “If you’re a terrorist, you’re going to hide your weapons in your anus or your vagina.” He blushed when I said “vagina.”

“Yes, but starting tomorrow, we’re going to start searching your crotchal area”—this is the word he used, “crotchal”—and you’re not going to like it.”

“What am I not going to like?” I asked.

“We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance,” he explained.

“Resistance?” I asked.

“Your testicles,” he explained.

‘That’s funny,” I said, “because ‘The Resistance’ is the actual name I’ve given to my testicles.”

The agents go on to explain that the ramped-up pat-downs are actually intended to force embarrassed passengers into the scanners, rather than to up the chances of catching underwear contraband. Goldberg also has a follow-up post from his return flight.

World Travel Watch: Cholera Outbreak in Haiti, Tsunami in Indonesia and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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World Travel Watch: Protests in France Turn Violent, Entry Fee in Venice and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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ExpressJet Pilot Refuses Full Body Scan, Has Job Put ‘On Hold’

Jalopnik has the pilot’s firsthand account. Money quote, describing a conversation with a TSA investigator who eventually arrived on the scene:

He told me he had been advised that I was refusing security screening, to which I replied that I had willingly walked through the metal detector with no alarms, the same way I always do when commuting to work. He then briefed me on the recent screening policy changes and, apparently confused, asked whether they would be a problem for me. I stated that I did indeed have a problem with the infringement of my civil rights and liberty.

His reply: “That’s irrelevant.”

World Travel Watch: Strikes in France, Festival Season Crime in Nepal and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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Mexico Sees Big Bump in International Travelers

Turns out the drug-related violence along the border isn’t stopping travelers from visiting Mexico, particularly its beaches. The number of foreign visitors to Mexico has risen almost 20 percent over last year. From the Los Angeles Times:

The number of visitors to Cancun, the easternmost coastal city, jumped nearly 31% in August compared with a year earlier; tourism to Los Cabos, on the southern tip of Baja California, increased 30%, according to Mexico tourism officials.

Southern California travel agents say U.S. tourists don’t seem too concerned about drug violence because they know to stay far from the border. “As long as you stay in the resort areas, you’ll have no problem,” [Carol] McConnell, [founder of Around the Globe Travel,] said.

Several other reasons are suggested for the boost, including affordability and Mexico’s latest marketing campaign.

Are Air Traffic Control Errors on the Rise?

According to the Washington Post, the raw numbers suggest they are. The FAA’s response? The increase, they say, is due to improved reporting procedures. (Via Gawker)

The Fight Against Online Ticket Fraud

Airlines have been losing big bucks to people exploiting security holes. One poll “estimated total losses at $1.4 billion in 2008,” according to USA Today.

“Common sense on this issue limits a discussion of what we do to track, prevent and seek prosecution of such occurrences,” says Tim Smith, a spokesman for American Airlines. “We’re just not interested in providing a ‘how to’ lesson on the subject.”

Still, Smith says, “I can tell you, in a very broad sense, that we have seen some increase in fraud and attempted fraud the last couple years.” The airline’s corporate security team deals with credit card fraud, he says, and often works with financial services companies and law enforcement when making inquiries.

In the travel sector, companies such as Orbitz were hit first and hardest by fraudsters, resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue a month.

After those companies took action to plug their holes, criminals took aim at airlines.

World Travel Watch: Penalties for Touts in Delhi, Tourist Tax in Lisbon and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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U.S. Issues Travel Alert for Americans in Europe

The State Department alerted U.S. citizens in Europe yesterday to “the potential for terrorist attacks.” From the alert:

Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks. European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack and some have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions.

The government suggests U.S. travelers in Europe register their travel plans, but not cancel them. The Under Secretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy added some context in a teleconference:

We are not, repeat not, advising Americans not to go to Europe. That is not - this is an alert, and we put out an alert, as you said - as I’ve said, and I think you’ve noted, to ensure that American citizens are aware of the possible incidents.

Now, we tell them that - basically, to use common sense if they see unattended packages or they hear loud noises or they see something beginning to happen that they should quickly move away from them. These are common sense precautions that people ought to take - don’t have lots of baggage tags on your luggage that directly identify you as an American, know how to use the pay telephone, know how to contact the American embassy if you need help.

And very importantly, as it says in the Travel Alert that we put out today, register - and you can do that online and the website tells you how to do it - register with the American embassy or consulate in the location you’re visiting so that if you need help, we might be able to find you, and if anyone inquires about your welfare and whereabouts, should there be, tragically, an incident, we would know how to reach out to you.

The vagueness of the alert has baffled and frustrated some travelers.

In follow up stories, however, some news organizations are noting specifics. CNN points to intelligence chatter about “Mumbai-style attacks,” referring to the “commando like attack featuring small units and small firearms” across the Indian city in 2008. ABC reports several European airports are among potential targets.