FAA To Ease Rules For Domestic Use Of Surveillance Aircraft To Spy On US Citizens In America

May 15, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA — Surveillance aircraft used by the U.S. military overseas could soon be coming to the skies above Los Angeles County.

KNX 1070′s Charles Feldman reports the Federal Aviation Administration is making it easier for local law enforcement agencies to fly unmanned drones.

The FAA has streamlined the process that would allow agencies to fly smaller, unarmed versions of the drones that hunt down terrorists in places such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

While the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has not yet applied for an application to fly drones over our skies, its Homeland Security chief Bob Osborne said drones could be in the department’s future — with some caveats.

“We have so much congestion in the skies that I would anticipate that there would be some pretty rigid safety standards,” said Osborne.

Drones are typically used over locations where helicopters and fixed wing aircraft are unable to fly, which Osborne said could have a myriad of applications here in the Southland.

“Mountain rescue, where you have a car over the side that’s a thousand feet down the cliff, oftentimes our aircraft can’t fly that low,” he said. “It would be wonderful to know what’s down there before we send a rescue crew.”

Federal officials already utilize drones to patrol a 1,200-mile wide swath of land east of San Diego near the southeast California border.

But the recent expansion of drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) above American cities has raised privacy concerns among some who believe the technology could be used for surveillance on U.S. citizens without their knowledge.

President Obama set a deadline in February for the FAA to draft legislation by May 14 that would determine how it will regulate the use of lightweight drones by police and other public safety agencies.

Appeared Here

Advertisements

FAA Sends Pointless NastyGram To Passenger Who “Illegally” Recorded Birds Being Sucked Into Delta Airliner’s Engine During Takeoff With His iPad

May 4, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – A Delta passenger who filmed a bird strike at JFK says he’s being targeted by the embarrassed feds just because he shot the footage with his iPad during takeoff.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Grant Cardone, an LA-based business consultant whose video of birds being sucked into an engine of LA-bound Delta Flight 1063 on April 19 has become a TV and Internet sensation. The plane turned back and landed safely.

Among those who saw his video were FAA inspectors, who slapped him with an official letter complaining he took the video illegally because portable electronic devices must be turned off during “critical” phases of a flight, such as takeoffs, and can’t be used during an in-flight emergency.

“Your failure to comply with flight attendant instructions during a critical phase of flight and an aircraft emergency could have affected the safe outcome of the flight,” the letter says.

Cardone doesn’t buy that.

“If there is even a minute chance that an iPad could take a plane down then it is the FAA’s obligation to ban the devices from flights or require the airlines to confiscate them when you check in,” he said.

The FAA said Cardone, 54, won’t be fined — but the letter “will be made a matter of record for a period of two years.”

“A record with whom?” asked Cardone, a frequent flier who is worried that he’s on some no-fly list. He said the letter “has a lot of Big Brother in it.”

Appeared Here


Cops Promise Their Will Be Drones Flying In US

April 30, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Look up. Drones are “certainly” coming to the skies over the Beltway in the next few years, one area police chief says.

The use of drones in the D.C. area became public information last week, after the Federal Aviation Administration released a list of agencies currently or previously permitted to use the unmanned aerial vehicles. It included many federal departments, such as Agriculture, Homeland Security and Energy as well as local organizations such as Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech.

“Drones will certainly have a purpose and a reason to be in this region in the next, coming years,” said Fairfax County Police Chief David Rohrer, while speaking on WTOP’s “Ask the Chief” program on Monday. “Just as a standpoint as an alternative for spotting traffic and sending information back to our VDOT Smart Traffic centers, and being able to observe backups.”

The use of drones over U.S. soil has some in Congress concerned about Americans’ privacy rights.

“The potential for invasive surveillance of daily activities with drone technology is high,” wrote Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., in an April 19 letter to FAA. “We must ensure that as drones take flight in domestic airspace, they don’t take off without privacy protections for those along their flight path.”

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said in the same letter he “proudly suppported” the FAA Modernization and Reform Act that allowed for the domestic use of drones. There are many institutions in his home state that the FAA has cleared for done use, including Texas A&M University, and the police forces in the city of Arlington outside Dallas-Fort Worth and in Montgomery County near Houston.

“However, if used improperly or unethically, drones could endanger privacy and I want to make sure that risk is taken into consideration,” he said.

The police chief of Prince William County, Va., which neighbors Fairfax, is not as focused on the prospect of the alternative monitoring system.

“I really haven’t studied them that much,” says Police Chief Charlie Dean. “I’m sure they’re valuable to some degree, but I don’t know about their capabilities.”

The police chiefs also discussed their officers’ involvement in seeking out illegal immigrants.

Prince William County has received national attention for its aggressive policy of checking the immigration status of every person arrested.

Victims of crimes and witnesses are exempt from such questioning, Deane said Monday. He supported the policy as “fair, lawful and reasonable.”

Upon learning that an arrested person is an illegal immigrant, Prince William police officers then turn over their information to federal authorities, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Fairfax County officers are not required to ask about immigration status after making an arrest, says Rohrer, though officers are trained to ask if they suspect someone might be in the country illegally.

“We are not a sanctuary,” he says.

Appeared Here


200 Daily Thefts From Baggage By Workers At New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport

March 27, 2012

NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Think twice before you check your luggage at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Cash, jewelry, electronics and other valuables are being stolen from passengers’ baggage at a staggering rate.

It’s happening as a result of inside jobs that aren’t being stopped, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reports exclusively.

All Rita Lamberg has left is an empty jewelry drawer and pictures of the $160,000 worth of watches, rings and necklaces that were stolen from her baggage at JFK Airport.

“I am so sick. This is a lifetime, a lifetime of my savings,” Lamberg said.

But Lamberg isn’t alone. Law enforcement sources told Kramer that thefts at the airport have increased at a staggering and alarming rate. There are now more that 200 a day — and that’s every day. Baggage handlers, jetway workers and even security people are all in on the ongoing scam to steal you blind.

“The belly of the airplane has become like a flea market for airport employees. They go in there and go through all the luggage unencumbered, unchecked,” JFK security lawyer Kenneth Mollins said.

Mollins is representing Lamberg as she tries to get reimbursed by the airline. Former NYPD detective Frank Shea was hired by other clients who were also ripped off at the airport. They both said the theft problem at JFK is a nightmare that is going unchecked.

“What we’re seeing out there is that really anything that isn’t nailed down is being stolen and for that matter I would caution, some day, if there weren’t tires missing from an aircraft,” Shea said.

Sources told Kramer that one of the things that makes the thieves so successful is that they engage in luggage profiling. They go after the most expensive luggage, but they also check out where you come from. So if you live in Scarsdale or Muttontown or North Woodmere you’re more likely to have your bags opened and possibly things stolen.

“It’s really occurring on the tarmac or as it’s being loaded onto the aircraft,” Shea said.

Once they’ve found the goodies, Shea said there are many ways to make off with them.

“Sometimes they get loaded into the back of one of the vehicles out at the airport. They’re searched through. They can be discarded as rubbish. Other times they are leaving the airport grounds,” Shea said.

In other words, thieves steal your bags, but as a passenger you never find that out. The airlines say they are lost in transit.

“The airlines don’t want to report these thefts because it’s bad for business,” Mollins said.

And they don’t want to talk to reporters about it because even if your luggage isn’t stolen you could still be a target.

“Fares go up clearly because of this. It’s a cost of doing business. They pay out and they hide the fact that these items are stolen,” Mollins said.

Most travelers have no idea what’s going on.

“You now scared the hell out of me,” said Sutton Place resident Louis Polk.

“I’m surprised. I didn’t know it was so, so bad,” added Rosana Perez of the Bronx.

And every time Lamberg looks into the emptiness of her jewelry drawer she said she feels, “heartbroken. I can’t believe it happened to me.”

The Port Authority, which owns JFK, said that workers are fingerprinted and given background checks though the FBI database.”

Even so, the agency said it’s going to install more cameras around the airport to help combat the problem Kramer has exposed.

Experts said that what really needs to happen is for the Federal Aviation Administration to tighten standards and for airlines to consider putting cameras in the belly of their planes.

Appeared Here


FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt Quits After Drunk Driving Arrest While Driving On Wrong Side Of Road

December 6, 2011

WASHINGTON. DC — Randy Babbitt resigned as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday after being charged over the weekend with driving while intoxicated.

“Today I submitted my resignation to Secretary Ray LaHood and it has been accepted,” he said in a written statement. “Serving as FAA Administrator has been an absolute honor and the highlight of my professional career. But I am unwilling to let anything cast a shadow on the outstanding work done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by my colleagues at the FAA.”

Police in Fairfax, Va., a suburb of Washington, said Babbitt, 65, was driving on the wrong side of the road when he was stopped at 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday. Babbitt, who was alone in the vehicle, was found to be intoxicated, police said, and was held at a detention center, where he was charged and released on a personal recognizance bond.

Police said that Babbitt wasn’t involved in an accident and that he cooperated with police.

Babbitt was appointed to lead the FAA in 2009. LaHood praised Babbitt on Tuesday for being an “outstanding leader.”

Reuters

Federal Aviation Administration head Randy Babbitt is seen in this Fairfax County Sheriff’s booking photograph released to Reuters on Dec. 5, 2011.

“I’m proud to say that we have the safest aviation system in the world, and thanks to Randy’s stewardship, it became safer and stronger,” he said in a written statement.

Babbitt apparently delayed telling administration officials about the arrest. White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama and Transportation Department officials learned of the arrest Monday afternoon, about an hour before a 1:30 p.m. statement was released saying Babbitt had been placed on leave at his request.

Separately, Fairfax City police issued a statement on the arrest to the media at about noon Monday, which their policies require in cases where a public official has been arrested. Police refused to disclose the results of Babbitt’s blood alcohol test. The legal limit is .08.

LaHood has aggressively campaigned against drunken driving, and is working with police agencies and safety advocates on an annual holiday crackdown on drinking and driving later this month. Safety advocates credit LaHood with doing more to raise the visibility of human factors in highway safety — including drunken driving, drivers distracted by cell phone use, and parents who fail to buckle in their children — than any previous transportation secretary.

Deputy FAA Administrator Michael Huerta will serve as acting administrator, the Transportation Department statement said. In recent months Huerta has been leading the FAA’s troubled NextGen effort to transition from an air traffic control system based on World War II-era radar technology to one based on satellite technology.

Babbitt was a former airline captain and internationally recognized expert in aviation and labor relations when Obama tapped him in 2009 to head the FAA. He was a pilot for the now-defunct Eastern Airlines for 25 years, and had served as president of the Air Line Pilots Association. As head of ALPA, he championed the “one level of safety” initiative implemented in 1995 to improve safety standards across the airline industry.

Babbitt’s nomination in 2009 was warmly received by both industry officials and airline unions. His easy manner and insider’s knowledge of the airline industry generated respect in Congress, where he regularly testified on safety issues and in support of NextGen.

Babbitt took over at the FAA when the agency was still reeling from the exposure of widespread safety gaps in the regional airline industry. The problems were revealed by a National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the February 2009 crash of a regional airliner near Buffalo, N.Y., that killed 50 people.

Babbitt and LaHood promised to immediately implement a series of safety initiatives. At Babbitt’s urging airlines adopted a series of voluntary safety measures, although safety advocates say voluntary measures aren’t enough. The FAA under Babbitt has also initiated several efforts to craft major new safety regulations, ranging from preventing pilot fatigue to boosting experience levels and training of airline pilots.

But Babbitt has struggled to realize several of those safety proposals. Some proposals have stalled as industry opponents lobbied White House officials against the proposed regulations, saying they would cost too much or be too burdensome.

The biggest crisis of Babbitt’s FAA tenure occurred last spring over a period of several weeks when nine air traffic controllers were allegedly caught sleeping on the job or were unresponsive to radio calls while on duty. The head of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization was forced to resign during the ensuing uproar.

As the FAA’s top official, Babbitt has the final say in disciplinary proceedings involving controllers who violate the agency’s drug and alcohol regulations.

Appeared Here


FAA Pisses Away Tax Dollars Investigating Skydiving Sex Stunt

October 13, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The Federal Aviation Administration says it will look into a videotaped skydiving sex stunt to determine if the pilot might have been distracted during the incident over Kern County.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor says any activity that could distract the pilot while he’s flying could be a violation of federal regulations.

Skydive Taft owner David Chrouch says he fired part-time skydiving instructor and porn star Alex Torres and hasn’t decided whether to fire the company’s receptionist, Torres’ partner in the video.

The video shows the two having sex in a plane before jumping out in tandem and continuing the act midair.

Authorities say Torres had posted the video on his blog but removed it on Monday.

Taft police Lt. Ed Whiting told KGET-TV in Bakersfield that no criminal charges are pending.

Appeared Here