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Steven Frischling
Live: HVN
Work: JFK-SFO-CDG-HKG
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Steven Frischling, aka: Fish, is globe hopping professional photographer, airline emerging media consultant working with large global airlines and founder of The Travel Strategist. Fish has racked up more than 1,000,000 miles since he started to track his mileage in 2005.

Fish's travel tends to be less than leisurely, including flying from New York to Basrah, Iraq, for six hours; Hong Kong for eight hours, Kuwait City for two hours and traveling around the world in 3.5 days to shoot a series of photo assignments in 4 cities and 4 countries on 3 separate continents.

Fish grew up at the end of New York's JFK International Airport's Runway 4R/22L, which probably explains his enjoyment of watching planes, fly overhead. When not shooting photos or traveling Fish designs camera bags, hones is expertise on airline security and spends his time at home cheering for the Red Sox with his 3 kids 102 yards from the ocean.

Is A Talk Radio Host On A Secret TSA List Or Flagged For Something Else?

Ian Freeman, the co-host of Free Talk Live, a national libertarian political talk radio show broadcast on more than 100 radio stations, and four television stations, and candidate for State Representative from Keene, New Hampshire,  makes an interesting claim … he claims he is on a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Super Secret Special Searched list. Mr. Freeman believes that as a result of being on the TSA’s Super Secret Special Searched list he is subject to being searched every time he travels because he speaks out regularly against the TSA … but this is not actually the case.

 

This morning as Mr. Freeman was boarding United Airlines Flight 4191, at Newark Liberty Airport’s Gate 109, around 7:45am, he was stopped by a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) Behavior Detection Officer (BDO) and physically searched along with a search of his carry-on baggage.

 

According to Mr. Freeman’s co-host, Mark Edge, who was traveling with him, Mr. Freeman has received four secondary screenings in four flights over the past few days and this screening at the gate followed a TSA BDO asking him how is day was and him remarking something to the effect of ‘It would be better if I wasn’t on some TSA list.’ Mr. Freeman’s search at Gate 109 took such a long that missed his flight home to Manchester Boston Regional Airport. Mr. Freeman’s remark to the TSA BDO may have caused the longer the usual gate screening … which if it is the case is an issue. Screening of passengers at a gate, or anywhere, should be based on legitimate threat assessments rather than personal feelings towards a passenger for any reason, including passenger remarks.

 

While the TSA has largely phased out “Secondary Security Screening Selection” (SSSS), it does still appear at times on the boarding passes of some travelers … one of these travelers is regularly Ian Freeman.  What does SSSS mean for a traveler? It means that you will be pulled aside after passing through a TSA checkpoint, while still in the checkpoint area, for a pat down and a physical search of your carry-on baggage.

 

The TSA claims that SSSS is triggered by an algorithm that is considered Sensitive Security Information (SSI), but it is based on travel patterns and threat assessment information.  Digging further into Mr. Freeman’s situation, of being stopped nearly every time he travels, I sought the insight of a TSA Deputy Federal Security Director and Software Program Analyst and learned an interesting trigger to Mr. Freeman repeatedly being subject to TSA secondary screening.

 

Mr. Freeman’s SSSS experience is not a secret list, or a conspiracy … it is his legal record. In 2008 Mr. Freeman was found to be in Contempt of Court a staggering three times in a single day, racking up a 90 day jail sentence, plus an additional 10 days for refusing to pay a fine for, of all things, having a couch on his lawn.  In addition to Mr. Freeman’s 2008 legal troubles, he was arrested in August of 2010 for obstruction of justice, as he prevented a police officer from placing someone else under arrest, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail in August of 2011.   Along with Mr. Freeman’s legal issues, that pop up in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) system, he has an aggressive history with the TSA, not a physical aggressiveness with the TSA … but an aggressiveness such as challenging a TSA BDO this morning about being in a secret list. Verbal altercations with TSA personnel may be logged at times, although neither the agency, nor the two people I spoke with regarding Mr. Freeman would definitively acknowledge this.

 

There are constantly rumors of the TSA having a secret list, but there is not. I am certain there is no secret list, because if there were, I’d be on it. With my own personal history of having two TSA Special Agents, from the Office of Law Enforcement, at my house three times in two days, having published multiple TSA SSI security directives (including one before it was released), having been detained by the TSA’s Office of Law Enfrocement at an airport, and taking the agency on in an aggressive manner frequently … if such a list existed, I’d be stopped every single time I entered an airport.  While I have had SSSS on my boarding pass at times, I know why I had it each time with unusual travel patterns … but the fact is that the TSA and DHS security systems look for specific information to determine a potential threat.

 

The DHS systems for threat assessment work in a very specific manner, working a complex combination of pieces of information, that is far from perfect. For some reason Mr. Freeman’s record over the past few years triggers SSSS in the agency’s threat assessment system.  Unfortunately Mr. Freeman cannot do anything to change what is in place as the TSA and DHS will not acknowledge how its threat assessment system works and there are no mechanisms to alter what the system sees in regard to Mr. Freeman.

 

Happy Flying … although I don’t think Mr. Freeman has much fun right now.

 

@flyingwithfish

14 Responses

  1. I had the SSSS on my boarding pass out of Detroit traveling with AA. The TSA agent told me “your airline requested additional security”. I had a few SSSS boarding passes in the last few years twice with BA on LHR-ORD and of all carriers Etihad traveling ORD-AUH. the TSA agent attributed that to my asking for a seat assignment change at check in.
    I don’t think it is a list, since it has been a while.

  2. He’s on the list because he has questioned authority.
    It’s that simple.
    Anyone who resists the eerie sheep-to-the-slaughter feel of the TSA checkpoint is relegated to “enemy of the state” status.
    Right here in the “Land of the Free.”
    It’s not about security anymore, it’s about conformity.

  3. Albert,

    Mr. Freeman is flagged due to how the TSA’s Performance & Results Information System (PARIS) and the DHS’s Tactical Information Sharing System (TISS) determine selectees. Mr. Freeman, or anyone for that matter, appearing in the PARIS and TISS database does not meat they will be chosen as secondary selectees, however, the frequency in which Mr. Freeman appears over the past few years ranks him as a possible threat due to how the system determines threat assessments.

    Go reread the post and my well documented issues with covering the agency … and I am rarely tagged for secondary screening. When I am, I know it is often because I my travel pattern and time frame in which I purchased the seats.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  4. I’d like to see Ruch L. put on a watch list… Let him fly out of the country with ease – but don’t let him back in!

  5. Make that Rush L.

  6. Cook,

    Rush Limbaugh would need to be on a US CBP list … and even at that, he is a United States Citizen. He cannot be disallowed entry into his native country. Despite his political views, he poses no threat to aviation security, national security or the U.S. interests.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  7. You know what I love about bureaucracies? Their affection for alphabet soup – BDO, SSSS, etc., ad nauseum. My god. Add the lack of transparency and incompetence to the equation, and the silliness turns scary.

  8. Steven, you wrote:

    “Mr. Freeman’s SSSS experience is not a secret list, or a conspiracy … it is his legal record. In 2008 Mr. Freeman was found to be in Contempt of Court a staggering three times in a single day, racking up a 90 day jail sentence, plus an additional 10 days for refusing to pay a fine for, of all things, having a couch on his lawn. In addition to Mr. Freeman’s 2008 legal troubles, he was arrested in August of 2010 for obstruction of justice, as he prevented a police officer from placing someone else under arrest, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail in August of 2011.”

    Mr. Freeman served short time for offenses that were patently non-violent. How can this justify the TSA’s treatment of him?

    If a minor police record is sufficient to warrant in-depth security screenings of this order, the airports would be so backlogged that none of the flights would be taking off on schedule.

    How about taking a fresh look at the evidence and trying again?

  9. Ken,

    This is not a matter of evidence or anything other than how software looks for various things. It is not, as I stated, merely than Mr. Freeman appears in the system, it is the frequency and cluster in which he appears in the system. Evidence to this is that Mr. Freeman was traveling with his co-host … who served 9 years of a 25 year sentence for murder, following the strangling death of a motel clerk. The reason his co-host, Mr. Edge, is not subject the the secondary screenings is how he appears in the system, he does not to have a cluster of sentences in the past four years.

    I am not debating if the system is right or wrong, in fact I think the system needs to be tweaked significantly, just pointing out that there is no conspiracy behind Mr. Freeman’s repeated secondary screenings.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  10. Fish, I have to agree with you here. If there were a secret list, I would be on it too, by virtue of my constant stream of complaints to the TSA and every elected official that I can think of in response to TSA’s routine violations of civil liberties.

    However, I am routinely “invited” to get a porn-o-scan by the blue shirts and they only perform their gropedowns after I politely opt out. So there is no secret list, even though I routinely encounter the same goons week after week. I always opt out, they always frisk me like a common criminal, I always complain, they always ignore me, and we repeat the process again and again.

  11. Fish,

    Would you say that the people who are on the so-called “no fly list” are not really on a list, but are flagged as ineligible to fly?

  12. Lynette,

    There is very much a “No Fly List.” Being on the No Fly List doesn’t mean you get a stricter screening it means just like what it sounds like … No Fly. If you are on the No Fly List (and some folks get on by mistake, such a Senator Ted Kennedy ending up on it at one point) more often than not there is a real reason to be on it and you cannot fly.

    The DHS purged thousands of names from the list that prevented people from flying, including little kids, but some people still wrongly remain.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  13. I know I’m about a month late to the party, but I’ll give it a go anyway…

    Flyingfish,

    You make much of there being no “secret list” that subjects certain people to extra scrutiny at airports.

    However you also wrote this:

    “Unfortunately Mr. Freeman cannot do anything to change what is in place as the TSA and DHS will not acknowledge how its threat assessment system works and there are no mechanisms to alter what the system sees in regard to Mr. Freeman.”

    This seems like making a distinction without any real difference. The fact that Freeman isn’t on any permanent list is really irrelevent to him; the effect on him is the same as if he were and he can’t do anything to change things because the mechanism in play is SECRET.

  14. Ancient Mariner wrote:

    “However, I am routinely “invited” to get a porn-o-scan by the blue shirts and they only perform their gropedowns after I politely opt out. So there is no secret list, even though I routinely encounter the same goons week after week. I always opt out, they always frisk me like a common criminal, I always complain, they always ignore me, and we repeat the process again and again.”

    This is why the government get away with anything it wants to do. People hate what it does, but do nothing but “politely complain” while tolerating the hated behavior. If the founding generation had been of the same mindset as we are today, the US would still be a British colony.

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