Petition the U.S. Government to Force the TSA to Follow the Law

This is important:

In July 2011, a federal appeals court ruled that the Transportation Security Administration had to conduct a notice-and-comment rulemaking on its policy of using “Advanced Imaging Technology” for primary screening at airports. TSA was supposed to publish the policy in the Federal Register, take comments from the public, and justify its policy based on public input. The court told TSA to do all this “promptly.” A year later, TSA has not even started that public process. Defying the court, the TSA has not satisfied public concerns about privacy, about costs and delays, security weaknesses, and the potential health effects of these machines. If the government is going to “body-scan” Americans at U.S. airports, President Obama should force the TSA to begin the public process the court ordered.

The petition needed 150 signatures to go “public” on (currently at 296), and needs 25,000 to require a response from the administration. You have to register before you can sign, but it’s a painless procedure. Basically, they’re checking that you have a valid e-mail address.

Everyone should sign it.

Posted on July 11, 2012 at 12:39 PM79 Comments


Will July 11, 2012 1:04 PM

I imagine we’ll just get what I got the last time I asked the executive branch to carry out their (Constitutionally mandated) duty:

“Why We Can’t Comment
Thank you for signing this petition. We appreciate your participation in the We the People platform on However, consistent with the We the People Terms of Participation and our responses to similar petitions in the past, the White House declines comment on this petition because it requests a specific law enforcement action.”

I mean, really, what’s the point of petitioning the executive branch to do what the executive branch is supposed to do when the answer you get is “no comment”? We can’t effectively petition the executive branch to make laws or judge them, because that’s not what it’s for.

I signed the petition, but I’m feeling like the whole process is useless.

MegaZone July 11, 2012 1:09 PM

Signed – and shared on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. This needs to be spread far and wide. With the power given to the TSA they should be held to the highest standards.

Sarcastico July 11, 2012 1:16 PM

The problem with petitioning the U.S. Government to force the TSA to follow the law is that the U.S. Government doesn’t even care if it follows the law itself, and any motivation to change will therefore be somewhat lacking (in addition to being hypocritical).

Chelloveck July 11, 2012 1:20 PM

While I agree that the issue is important, the whole “We The People” petition process is a joke. I have yet to see a response that was anything other than “No comment” or “We’ve already made up our minds and nothing you can say will change them.”

charlie July 11, 2012 1:28 PM

This is a big issue. They don’t want to do notice and comment because they’ll also have to do regulatory and environmental impacts and those are challengeable in court

Under a chevron standard, the TSA can do pretty much everything, but the various attachments to a regulatory action get tied up in court pretty easily.

Johanson July 11, 2012 1:33 PM

In response to the anti-SOPA/PIPA petition on this petition, not only did the Whitehouse follow up with a response, but I was actually one of the hundred people who was selected to participate in a phone conference regarding the topic.

They do read petitions and if their hands aren’t tied on what they can comment, they do follow up.

Aaron July 11, 2012 1:54 PM

I’d sign it, but I have a vacation planned next month and I really would like to be able to fly.

Timmy! July 11, 2012 2:02 PM

Besides the previous objection (the response is always some variant of “no comment”), what result, exactly, are you hoping to achieve?

Petitioning the government to say that the government should follow the government’s laws — well, the government should do that, anyway, so I can’t imagine what possible meaningful action the government could have.

Are they going to say “You’re right, we should follow our own laws!”? Because, as you note, they said that last year about this very issue.

What a great country we have. We have separation of powers, but branches simply ignore the powers that the other branches have that they don’t like. We can petition the government for grievances, and the response is always “no comment”.

Aaron B. July 11, 2012 2:16 PM

The petition count went up by over 170 just in the time it took me to sign it.

25,000 looks feasible at this rate. Keep ’em coming.

Vek July 11, 2012 2:16 PM

Last time I saw a TSA-related petition on that site, it had received several thousand signatures for abolishing the TSA. The petition was then responded to by the head of the TSA, who dismissed the whole thing. We can petition for redress of grievances all day long, but how do we actually get them to actually redress grievances?

JoeNotCharles July 11, 2012 2:16 PM

Interesting – I can’t find anything in the Terms of Service that says you actually must be a US citizen to sign the petitions.

Charles Iverson July 11, 2012 2:23 PM

I agree that the TSA should publish their policy in the Federal Register, take comments from the public, and justify its policy based on public input.

kingsnake July 11, 2012 2:24 PM

… and get put on the no fly list. Nope, not sticking my head above the parapet. (Sad comment on what it means to be American these papers-please days.)

Wabasso July 11, 2012 2:30 PM

I don’t think it’s that futile to petition the government to follow its own laws. The very fact that the government is in such a basic contradiction of its own term demonstrates that it’s a human entity with human imperfections and inconsistencies. If it can shrug its shoulders at an issue that doesn’t seem important, it may conversely get out of its seat and take action if a bunch of people are shouting about something.

Michael July 11, 2012 2:36 PM

Interesting – when viewing the petition using Safari on the Mac, the buttons and note next to the petition indicating that you must login in order for your vote to count is not shown. If you just click the vote button you will get a pop-up thanking you but apparently your vote is not counted. When you use Firefox however, the buttons are shown.

Conspiracy against registering the votes of Mac users? Poor coding/testing? Who knows…

Figureitout July 11, 2012 2:50 PM

Did anyone else sign up for email updates from Barack Obama and/or senior administration officials?

George July 11, 2012 3:04 PM

The petition is a good symbolic gesture, but ultimately pointless. It ignores the root cause of the TSA’s many problems.

The TSA considers itself above the law (and impervious to any criticism from outside the agency) because its leaders believe they have an unlimited mandate to “protect aviation.” That mandate exempts them from all the requirements and restrictions that apply to ordinary government agencies. They’re particularly exempt from notice and comment rulemaking and other transparency requirements because their policies, rules, and procedures are classified for valid National Security Reasons. The process for making those policies, rules, and procedures must therefore be held in strictest secrecy, to protect classified information.

Whether these exemptions, which the TSA unilaterally granted itself, are valid or legal is irrelevant. Nobody in either the Legislative or Executive Branch is willing to challenge them, for fear of being labeled “soft on terrorism,” or worse, getting blamed for the TSA (inevitable) failure to protect aviation.

Because of Fear and the imperative of posterior-covering, Congress has abrogated their responsibility for oversight, and for holding the TSA accountable. Yes, they occasionally might indulge in political theatre that pretends excoriate TSA officials with recitations of the reasons why they’ve earned the scorn and distrust of much of the public. But once that’s over, they hand the TSA their annual check, and keep their hands off.

The Executive Branch has neither the interest nor the incentive to enforce restrictions on its own exercise of power. Thus, by default, the TSA has empowered itself to do whatever it wants, to make classified rules in secret and enforce them capriciously at checkpoints, and particularly to avoid any accountability for performance or cost-effectiveness.

The TSA is proof that when a democratic government ignores its obligation to hold its bureaucrats accountable for following the law, waste, abuse, incompetence, and tyranny are the inevitable result.

As for the petition, John Pistole probably regards it just as he regards the many complaints about TSA abuse and misconduct. Since he clearly believes that “security” should be as annoying and distressing as possible for the people it protects, the petition is just the latest proof that his agency is doing an excellent job.

Rick O'Leary July 11, 2012 3:04 PM

As someone who is absolutely committed to voting FOR Obama, this is very hard to deal with…

Get your act together.

Bob T July 11, 2012 3:18 PM

Ah, I see. They are letting us help make the noose they are going to hang us with. They get you to feel like you are participating in the process and if there aren’t enough signatures, you’re supposed to accept that the majority of the democracy has spoken. Sheep being led to the slaughter.

Are you kidding me? If they are not complying with a court order, it shouldn’t require a petition for the administration to act on their department.

“…they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large who hold the end of his chain.” ~ de Tocquville

Jeff Pierce July 11, 2012 3:37 PM

EVERYONE: Yes, please continue to sign it. Unfortunately, fighting the illegal and abusive TSA procedures will require several steps, many in parallel, to build up enough momentum to get either the President (who could easily rollback the illegal strip search scanners and criminal sexual assault pat downs) or Congress to do something concrete.

Is it futile? Well, no one expects the Obama administration to do something.

Remember, this is the HYPOCRITICAL Attorney General who SUES a state to stop Photo-IDs being required for VOTING, yet the same Attorney General does nothing to stop the Requirement of Photo-IDs to travel in an airport !!!

Apparently, this administration thinks its more important to track who is traveling where by airplane rather than verify that a voter is actually an eligible voter. (FYI: I am not advocating photo IDs, although that is one option. As an aside, will the Federal Government sue to stop Vote By Mail? Just thinking out loud….)

supersaurus July 11, 2012 3:45 PM

“Our Apologies….

The site is currently undergoing maintenance. We appreciate your patience while we make some improvements.
Please check back soon.”

A Telco Security Dweeb July 11, 2012 4:12 PM

There isn’t a chance that this will have any effect, because both political parties in the United States (as well as, incidentally, both Presidential candidates) are solidly and unquestioningly in favour of the “Permanent Police State”, necessary to enforce compliance with the “Permanent War On Drugs” and the “Permanent War On Terror”.

As I regularly remind my fellow non-American correspondents, “Get used to it : America hasn’t been a democracy for some time, isn’t a democracy now, and is becoming steadily less democratic, with each passing year.”

Mr. Pistole, as well as Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, laughs at your pathetic little petitions. They’re the elite, you’re the peasantry, and you had better learn to live with it.

Unless, of course, you’d prefer a stint in maximum security somewhere (I hear Guantanamo’s nice, these days), for “being a member of a ‘pro-terrorist’ group”.

SecretCISO July 11, 2012 4:19 PM

Apparently the White House doesn’t like folks signing these petitions, the sight is up and down like a yo-yo

Scared July 11, 2012 4:25 PM

5,019 signatures. And yes:

“Our Apologies….

The site is currently undergoing maintenance. We appreciate your patience while we make some improvements.

Please check back soon.”

Scared July 11, 2012 4:32 PM

5114, including mine. I did get an email back and my signature got counted. The error message is an error (or is it?).
Fortune favors the persistent.

MingoV July 11, 2012 4:58 PM

@Jeff Pierce a: “… build up enough momentum to get either the President (who could easily rollback the illegal strip search scanners…”

The same President Obama who invited the CEO of the nudie scanner company to accompany him on the junket to India and Indonesia? The same President Obama who heartily approved the revised TSA policy to use the nudie scanners for primary screening instead of secondary and to quadruple the purchase of nudie scanners?

The only way Obama will oppose use of the nudie scanners is if the issue could cost him the election. Since the majority of voters approve the idiotic procedures of the TSA, that’s not going to happen.

Scared July 11, 2012 5:00 PM

Looks like there’s no problem if you use IE.
Explains why readers of this blog have problems…..

Jeff Pierce July 11, 2012 5:28 PM

@mingoV. If you count up comments at all sites that post something on the TSA, it is overwhelmingly 80%+ against the TSA.

The problem is one cannot individually do anything at an airport that makes a difference, hence the tactics of political opposition to influence change.

The majority of voters do not approve, but there is not enough of a majority to complain as many will give up their rights and accept 20 seconds of anti-constitutional convenience.

EVERYONE who is truly against the policies must do the simple things such as signing the petition. You can also join to stay in touch on other actions.

Steven Klein July 11, 2012 5:43 PM

If a Republican were in the White House, would you treat the TSA as some kind of rogue agency, defying the president’s wishes?

Don’t be naïve. The TSA is part of the executive branch, and TSA administrator John S. Pistole is an Obama appointee.

By definition, it follows the president’s wishes. In refusing to obey the courts, the TSA is carrying out administration policy, not defying it.

The petition should be titled “Petition the Obama Administration to obey the law.”

pfogg July 11, 2012 7:13 PM

If you treat the “Our appologies…site maintenance…'” error as the message “Wait for an email with instructions for completing registration”, everything’s fine.

Dirk Praet July 11, 2012 7:17 PM

Time for an old Sydney Smith (1771–1845) quote: “It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little.”

@ A Telco Security Dweeb

Get used to it : America hasn’t been a democracy for some time, isn’t a democracy now, and is becoming steadily less democratic, with each passing year.

The only reason elites everywhere can keep getting away with what they do is because too few people care, and even less raise their voice. Whining about stuff only has never brought about any change, nowhere. Sorry to say this, but it would seem that many folks in the land of the free and the home of the brave today have significantly smaller cojones than those in countries like Tunesia, Egypt, Iran, Bahrain, Libya and Syria.

averros July 11, 2012 7:19 PM

Yep. Force TSA to follow the law by stopping it searching travelers and seizing their possessions without any probable cause.

Oh, darn. The only way TSA can comply is to abolish itself. And, as we know, the Iron Law of Bureaucracy is that it never goes away. Too bad for the law.

supersaurus July 11, 2012 7:24 PM

The name ??? is already taken.
The e-mail address ???@?????.com is already registered. Have you forgotten your password?

well, no actually, because I never got to a screen that asked for my password.

and yes, it has been a good many hours with no email, password or no.

effective software testing is a wonderful thing…or so I have heard.

saukko July 11, 2012 7:34 PM

i fully support this petition…the tsa needs to be held accountable to the citizens that support it as its tax base and because the tsa stands in the way of citizens’ right to privacy.

redfood July 11, 2012 8:53 PM

For those who are wondering were to sign up – click on the “This” in the beginning of the post.

To Bruce Schneier – if you want to maximize signatures you may want to make the link more obvious maybe with “Everyone should sign this petition” (where “this petition” is the link).

John David Galt July 11, 2012 9:51 PM

Trying to get the TSA to follow the law (without making its agents personally accountable to victims in a court of law) is like trying to get a wolf to turn vegetarian.

I say, ABOLISH the TSA. They accomplish nothing except to intimidate innocent Americans into putting up with Gestapo-like behavior by cops and wannabe-cops. (TSA agents are not actually peace officers and cannot make arrests.)

And while we’re at it, let’s strip ALL police of their immunity from lawsuits when they violate people’s rights.

I want our constitutional form of government back.

Jeff Pierce July 11, 2012 9:56 PM

ATTENTION: As of 10:53PM EST on July 11th, the current VOTE Count has been ROLLED-BACK to 3,669.

It was 5,114 as of 4:32PM Bruce Schneier local time.

Perhaps AG Eric Holder will sue the site for disenfranchising voters?

I recommend everyone go back, and retell all, to vote again to make sure your vote counts. Is it just coincidence this happens with the TSA petition?

Joe July 11, 2012 10:02 PM

@ Jeff Pierce

Maybe he’ll take a break from arming the cartels and blaming us for it, trying to prevent states from enforcing the voting laws of the United States, and lying to Congress long enough to look into it. He seems pretty busy though, so don’t hold your breath.

Stephen Northcott July 11, 2012 10:25 PM

I will no longer visit America on business or for pleasure until the current situation changes. As it stands I have declined numerous invites to the US, or business opportunities within the US, for over 10 years.

Erica July 12, 2012 12:11 AM


OK, this should be easy…can the US public go on a six-year campaign to unseat every member of Congress and replace them with representatives who actually represent something other than themselves? And repeal many of the laws that the current group of miscreants has passed?

Too easy, eh?

David July 12, 2012 12:51 AM

I would love to sign the petition, but the javascript button doesn’t seem to work correctly. I click the button, expecting to have a place to enter some information but all it does is increment the counter up by one number and thank me for signing the petition. Doesn’t sound like the petition will be effective if there is no identifying information collected…

Lisa July 12, 2012 12:57 AM

As long as a majority of voters are stupid sheep willing to cast votes for whatever con artists that have the most expensive and negative (yes fear is a negative) campaign, and against their own interests, this petition is useless.

Do you really think thousands or even millions of signatures on a petition has any hope of reducing the multi-billion dollar terrorism industrial complex, that provides more than enough funding to politicians and their campaigns?

The 99% which contains many living on the margins, does not have enough disposable money to out-bribe the richer and more organized 1%.

Tom July 12, 2012 8:05 AM

Sorry for OT, but this might be of interest:

Payment terminals allow for remote PIN capture and card cloning.

A researcher/hacker at Security Research Labs (SRLabs) has found several software and hardware vulnerabilities. Via an attack, for example over the terminal’s ethernet or wireless LAN adapter and TCP/IP, it is possible to clone the card data, alter or fake transactions. The Hardware Security Module could not be hacked, but full access over the rest of the device (they installed pong) allows to display a fake “not accepted” warning and allows stealing the PIN.

Only english source I found so far:

The news is right now starting to spread among german news agencies. The biggest german IT news ticker “heise” ( and the well-respected “Zeit” ( have more information, unfortunatelly not in english.

Some additional info from these articles:
– The hacked terminal is the “Artemis Hybrid” manufactured by Verifone
– 300.000 of these terminals are installed in Germany
– Verifone, the german banking association and the Federal Office for Information Security have been informed about the vulnerabilities 4 (four!) months ago
– The manufacturer of course downplays the dangers and says the hack would just be possible under “laboratory conditions” and that no PIN theft would be possible during the payment procedure (which is technically right, but it is impossible for the user to discern the real payment from the fake messages on the terminal)

Cbob July 12, 2012 9:01 AM

Considering the TSA/Security theater is just an extension of the whole Cold War military industrial complex, the only changes I expect to see are further erosion of civil/individual rights & bigger budgets to make that happen.

Bob T July 12, 2012 10:52 AM

How do you know the real tally isn’t 28,750?

This is like me intruding on other employees personal files and my boss posting an obscure petition explaining that I’ll be disciplined if he gets enough signatures.

What a joke.

Peter Pearson July 12, 2012 11:51 AM

Looking at the subject material of the other petitions on — a world language, Roswell investigations, mind control — makes me wonder how seriously the President should take this site.

Dirk Praet July 12, 2012 6:24 PM

Best comment found on the net so far: “TSA has opted out of following the law for a year now. Isn’t it time we give them a pat-down? “

oliver July 12, 2012 6:28 PM

as a radiologist i’m utterly chocked by these X ray scanners … how can they replace an harmless technic like a patdown with a low energy xray machine that deliver all the dose to the skin of a VERY LARGE population ….????

onearmedspartan July 13, 2012 1:26 AM

I support and signed this petition but I doubt anything will come out of it. If Eric Smolder can get his buddy Barry to get his back, I’m pretty sure he will do the same for John pedo-stole.

charles yeager July 13, 2012 6:03 PM

So many seem to believe that this will have no effect. That’s what keeps people from being involved. It never stops corporations from trying for what they want. When we want change we have to keep pushing rather than complaining that it is a waste of time.

Derf July 14, 2012 8:55 AM

The healthcare act made your doctor a veterinarian, you the dog, and the government your owner. Obama has basically reinvented the Führerprinzip to order ICE to stop deportation. Do you really think a petition will make any headway against the entrenched police state the government has always wanted?

Leyton Pitzer July 16, 2012 8:25 AM

How is it that this petition was over 16,000 and is now at 12,000? Are our votes moving it backwards? Did the administration reset the petition?

JohnP July 16, 2012 9:13 AM

a) America is not, and never has been a Democracy. We are a Republic.

b) Expecting this petition to do anything more than gather awareness is crazy. Awareness is good.

c) While I doubt that signing will cause special additional TSA screening, having been through an enhanced pat-down when trying to return to the USA, I’m unwilling to sign it.

d) Yes, I’m scared to comment “on the record” due to abuse potential. Is that really the intent of the TSA and USA government? Should any average citizen really be afraid to publicly comment about government stances and actions we don’t like?

Congratulations terrorists. You’ve won. My freedom of speech is effectively gone and it was taken from me by the USA government.

Jake July 18, 2012 7:06 PM

what is the TSA? the government.

who makes the laws? the government.

nope, don’t see a conflict of interest here. not a one.

Jack July 25, 2012 10:19 AM

it is still 9,470 votes short of 25,000.

BTW I have a concern about this petition:

Investigate misuse of Psychotronic (mind control) weapons.

My concern is that above petition could lead to a control of psychotronic weapons, and the right to carry weapons is constitutionally quaranteed.

If psychotronic weapons are banned, only criminals will have psychotronic weapons!

Robert Coggins July 30, 2012 8:06 AM

This needs to get back out again! There were about 1000 signatures a day, but now there are about 100 per day and it does not look like it will get the required signatures at this rate. Let people know!

William Lawrence August 5, 2012 2:42 AM

That the TSA gives us a choice to either have our balls X-Rayed or Squeezed just to get on a goddamn airplane is indicative of how absurdly docile and pathologically passive we have become as sheep-citizens.
TSA continues to inflate its mandate into a colossal and multi billion dollar bureaucracy with ever diminishing usefulness, ABOLISH TSA ONCE AND FOR ALL.

Mark F August 11, 2012 4:51 PM


At approximately 11:30 am EDT, the White House removed a petition about the TSA airport screening procedures from the White House “We the People” website. About 22,500 of the 25,000 signatures necessary for a response from the Administration were obtained when the White House unexpectedly cut short the time period for the petition. The site also went down for “maintenance” following an article in Wired that sought support for the campaign.

jsdavis November 13, 2012 2:53 PM

The point is exhaust the “Administrative” Petiton then move to the Court. The Government looks foolish if it has a process but never follows it. The Court needs to hold someone, like the Secretary of Transportation, in Contempt and then in jail until the Court’s oder is obeyed. Too much fun.

Gratitude February 8, 2013 2:32 PM

I WILL NOT sign this bull. I have not had any problems with the TSA. It’s funny how people so no appreciation for something until they really need it. I think the government should take the TSA away. Terrorists would hijack aircraft and fly them into buildings and I’ll be laughing when the same ungrateful people are begging the government to bring back the TSA. People are idiots.

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